It's been an interesting few weeks in the United States. An unarmed fleeing black man was shot in the back by a white police officer. Because of video that seemed to show the injustice of that event, the officer was quickly fired and charged with murder. It was a swift response from officials in a state that is often viewed as backward and stuck in the 1950s.
We also had nine people murdered by a disturbed young man who wanted to start a race war. The victims were African American and the perpetrator was white. Because of the young man's use of the Confederate flag image, South Carolina politicians across the political spectrum voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. I can't speak for the motives of all, but I do know one for whom it was a biblical conviction.
A nine foot tall, bronze statue of Baphomet was unveiled in Detroit in opposition to public displays of the Ten Commandments. This statue represents the Church of Satan and proponents have vowed to move the statue to other public venues where the Ten Commandments are displayed.
In both locations, those decisions have met with opposing views that erupted in violence. There were flash points of rational debate and attempts at understanding; but that doesn't sell papers or attract viewers like the mob violence, rogue vandalism, or in-your-face protests. It's a shame, too, because the response of the Emmanuel 9 family members was once of the most gracious, Christlike responses I have ever seen. That grace brought a shocked and grieving community together in ways that I have not witnessed since the events of September 11, 2001.
I haven't opined on any of this until this post and my opinion is just that -- my opinion. I have noticed a disturbing trend on social media among those that I know to be followers of Jesus . . . or at least they claim to be. That trend to is expend far more energy, passion and concern over the Confederate flag, the satanic statue, & other cultural trends than they ever do about Jesus, the church, or the fate of those apart of Jesus. In Detroit there were groups suggesting that the warehouse where the unveiling of the satanic statue was to be celebrated should be bombed. In South Carolina, there were people who seemed far more interested in keeping the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds than they were about bridging cultural divides and lifting up Jesus. It's as if we let our lives be driven by the winds of cultural preference rather than being driven by the truths of scripture. It's disturbing trend and here's why:
1. I Corinthians 10:31 says "So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." Whether you're white or black or brown, yellow or red, if you follow Jesus, this verse commands us to live ALL of our lives for the glory of God. See also Colossians 3:17
2. I Corinthians 8: 13 says, "Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat again, for I don't want to cause another believer to stumble." Yes, he's writing about eating meat offered to idols here. Some who had not yet understood freedom in Christ believed that eating meat that had been burned in sacrifice to an idol was wrong. Paul's response was that we were no worse if we eat it or we don't eat it. In other words, it wasn't that important to God UNLESS it became a stumbling block to someone weaker in the faith. Bottom line is this. If our African American brothers and sisters are bothered by the presence of a flag and we persist displaying it, we sin against our brothers and sisters. Don't let your freedom become a stumbling block to reaching across cultural lines to lift up Jesus.
3. All of this, when it moves our focus onto politics, cultural differences, and religious differences, simply distracts us from keeping the main thing the main thing. We shift our focus from Jesus to those waves and that wind and before you know it, we're sinking into the abyss of carnality.
Now I'm not talking to my friends who are not Christ-followers. But for those who are, we must remember that it is not our role in this world to be democrat, republican, independent, libertarian, protestant, catholic, or any denomination. (All lower case purposely) When we follow Jesus we become citizens of heaven. See I Peter 2:9-17 We are strangers & aliens, not of this world. Our purpose is maintain good conduct among unbelievers, living in such a way that our honorable lives will silence the accusations of foolish people. We are called to be God's people. Indeed, we are called to be the Body of Christ, His hands, His feet, His lips, His heart (I Corinthians 12).
Let's expend what time we have left being those things, having the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-8), loving as He loved (John 13:34-35; I Corinthians 13), and remaining focused on the mission we've been given (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Time is short! Times will get tougher! But the mission remains the same . . . and so does the Savior Who said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Only then will we make an eternal difference!