I have watched in quiet contemplation at the aftershocks of tragedy in South Carolina, and although some of it has been inspiring, other things have been disappointing even to the point of absurdity. One such argument that has spurred in the aftermath of a massacre was the recent issue with the confederate flag favored by a murderer. You all know the story. And while I don’t agree that a flag is responsible or even motivational in the murder of nine innocent lives, I have been honestly flabbergasted by the uproar it’s caused as of late.
I’m not really talking about a flag, per se, or even what this symbol means or doesn’t mean. What’s really surprised me the most has been the appalling reaction of this debate. It’s not only disappointing, it’s despicable.
So I’ve watched my social media newsfeed explode with collective reaction, and I’ve noticed far too many people who claim to be Christians speaking in a rather un-Christ-like manner. I’ve seen some of the most rambling, raging, unnecessary arguments come from a discussion to retire a flag, and I’m saddened to say that after the monster Dylann Roof was arrested other monsters have taken his place in the form of hateful, vehement social display.
Apparently kind, Christian folks are saying some pretty awful things, and in their passion and indignation it’s turned really ugly. The list of people with which I’d choose to be stuck on a desert island is quickly dwindling as true characters are coming to light when angers flare, and the church-going Southerners are appearing to be the ones who would stab me for the last piece of bread.
My observations sound pretty harsh, I’m aware, but rather than judging the heated opinions of others, I’m simply asking as a sister in Christ if you bother to run your strong words and views through a filter of love before you throw them haphazardly for all to see? It’s no wonder the rest of the country laughs at us. Christians who aren’t acting very loving? Hogwash.
There’s not a thing wrong with standing up for truth and goodness, just as there’s nothing wrong with treasuring your heritage or respecting history. But when do we need to ask ourselves exactly what it is we’re fighting for, and if the wounded will be worth the battle?
Here’s what I mean. I’ve noticed many good, Christian friends remaining silent on the matter much as I have been doing, but I did have one gentleman have the courage to speak something that rang very truthful to my spirit.
He said, “If we can’t be strong enough to retire a piece of history that others find offensive, then we’re a weaker people than we think. Strength is shown through compassion for our neighbor. It is highlighted when we do not insist on having our own way. If we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, then we don’t lay down a stumbling block for them to trip on.”
I’ll add to his statement and make my own. Jesus was mocked, beaten, laughed at, and called a liar even though He was truly the Son of God. In His suffering and unjust treatment He still chose to die for mankind. Yet we can’t even lay down a piece of cloth in the name of peace and healing for a Nation. What does that say?
I love my state of Mississippi, and I love our strong values and heritage. I sometimes think this world has gone and gotten over-offended happy on everything. But I also am a sensitive enough soul to try and understand the opinions of others, evaluate if my actions are offensive, and let go of what’s not that huge of a thing in the big picture scheme of it all.
Sometimes conceding doesn’t mean you’re saying that you are wrong. It doesn’t even mean you’re saying someone else is right. It means you stand up as the bigger person for the greater good of all. It means you stand strong for something after all; it just happens to be that you’re standing strong for unity and healing of a country. Sometimes to stand strong means to lay it all down. Just ask a soldier.
I’ll tell you what it shouldn’t entail. It shouldn’t mean digging your heels in stubbornly simply to make a point. It doesn’t mean hurling insult at those who disagree with you. It doesn’t mean causing continued and further division when your actions are perceived in a negative light. And it certainly doesn’t mean becoming so fixated on minuscule arguments in the grand scheme of life that you become blinded to the real problems this country faces. Don’t you know the devil is in the business of deception and distraction?
Sometimes I’m honestly amazed that we as a people have come so far when we are so easily led away from the important things God wants to show us. Imagine what we could accomplish if we set aside petty differences and instead focused our eyes on the big picture.
It comes down to a little thing called love. It’s even better than the Hokey Pokey because love is what it’s truly all about. Without it we are nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
This is something I need to work on, it’s something our country needs to work on, it’s something we all could do better at. What we can’t do is this. We can’t allow the words of passion that we speak to become tainted by things that contradict love, and to become ugly. And when a situation personally offends and angers us the best response is to pray and ask God, “how shall I proceed to honor you and speak your truth into this problem?”
Yes, let’s try that.