Update 7/8/15: More flag news has surfaced since this article was written, so make sure you check out the latest article about Flags Over Facebook!
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Over the past three weeks or so, it seems that two flags have been metaphorically flown over Facebook. The ideologies and connotations of each are very different, each inspiring both anger and support. And while Redeeming Culture tries to stay away from the political, we’d like to point out three major theological points that Christians should consider in the shadow of the Confederate battle flag and the Pride rainbow flag. Please keep in mind, we aim to show general theological truths that should be kept in mind while discussing these issues; we believe that both the Confederate Flag and Same-Sex Marriage are “open-handed” issues that Christians can disagree on without dividing.
Fighting for your Rights?
As Christians (and particularly as American Christians), we’re blessed with an unprecedented number of rights, and a uniquely wealthy time in history where we have the financial means to reach for them. And when it comes to the Confederate Battle Flag, the debate always starts with a question of whether it should fly over public land, but soon grows to ask if anyone should (or should be allowed to) fly it. Of course, we have the right. Both as Americans and as Christians, we have the right to run it up in our yards, stick it to our lunch boxes, or wear it on our shirt with the words “GOD BLESS DIXIE.” And while the history of the flag is complicated and many would contend it does not stand for racism, the fact remains that it is strongly associated with that stigma. So should we fly the Confederate Battle Flag, knowing that our black brothers and sisters—and nonbelievers of any race—will assume we are racist and wrongly associate that racism with the name of Christ?
In Romans 14, Paul addresses a similar issue. He’s writing to the Roman church about whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian who feels free to eat meat to do so around a Christian with a conviction that meat is unholy to consume, and he writes,
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 14:13-17 ESV, emphasis added)
One of the most important things we can remember about the Christian walk is that its purpose is not to pursue eating or drinking or flying a certain flag, or the ideologies of a particular political party. More important than our rights is the righteousness we display, and the peace and joy that we walk in with others through the Holy Spirit. People won’t be drawn to Christ through our freedom to fly a flag; they will be drawn to Christ through our joyful willingness to lay down our freedoms so that others feel loved. If we esteem our liberty higher than our relationship with others, we show that our freedom is an idol that is keeping us from Christ. Our rights aren’t as important as our relationships.
Fighting for your Marriage?
Speaking of rights, the ones that are making the loudest noise over the last week are the rights of homosexual couples to marry, guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court to inhabitants of all 50 states in a landmark 5-4 decision last Friday. Without a doubt, it’s a historic moment in our world, and Christians must respond. But how?
Some have responded with open arms, welcoming the court’s decision and the weddings that will result from it. Some have tried to remain neutral on the issue, noting that they disagree with homosexuality and affirm that it is a sin, but they don’t believe that the secular government has any right to forbid it. But many have run with a sky-is-falling tactic: “this will destroy traditional marriage, and thus all of society.”
Let us set aside for a moment the fact that the decision has been made by the highest court in the land and can thus not be overturned by any Earthly power. Let us also set aside any discussion of whether this decision will result in any increased level of persecution for the Church. That is an important discussion, but I addressed much of what I had to say on that topic in “In Defense of the Lions,” written over a month ago. No, if we viciously insist that marriage is the “most important thing,” we have succeeded in making marriage itself an idol that is keeping us from Christ.
Of course marriage is important. It may be one of the most important institutions. But let’s not forget, it’s just an echo; Christ’s marriage to the Church is the most important marriage of all time, past and future:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready…”
And this marriage need not be defended by man, as it can never be defiled by man.
Fighting for the Lost?
Finally, many people on both side of both debates seem to be surprised at one fundamental truth: that non-Christians are committing sins.
This is baffling.
Of course non-Christians will commit the sin of racism. Of course non-Christians will steal or lie or cheat. Of course non-Christians will be sexually immoral. Many will also not be, but the idea that someone without the Holy Spirit might sin is not only silly, but specifically called out in the Bible.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Do dead people have the opportunity to do the right thing? Of course not. Our job as Christians is not to call these people to “clean up their act”! We’re supposed to call them to Christ, who not only cleans them Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit, but revives them! Brings them back from death!
The unregenerate cannot repent. So shouting and haranguing on Facebook will not entice people to Christ, and may actually turn people away from Him; because if He is like His followers, they’re not interested. And don’t think that they are tripping over the “stumbling block” of the Gospel if you’re ranting in all caps; often, before they can even reach the stumbling block of the Gospel, you have already knocked them off their feet with your anger.
Because we must remember above all that the blood-stained standard of Jesus Christ flies over both the Confederate flag and the rainbow banner, and that standard calls all of us to pursue Him before our freedoms, before our marriage…before everything.
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Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture! Take a look at our previous article, “In Defense of the Lions“; or look at all of our Current Events articles (remember, they were current when they were written). And, as always, if you like what you see, we’d also greatly appreciate your support. Thank you!