In a world where a debate rages around a game played every Autumn Sunday on artificial grass, some lyrics and notes, and a piece of cloth made from strips of red, white, and blue, let us be a beacon of light that draws people’s eyes to the real issue at hand. Because in the end, folks aren’t really talking about flags and anthems and pigskin balls, are they?
Of course not.
What we’re really talking about, the heart of the matter, the fulcrum on which positions rise or fall is actually just this: I am here. I am human. I have a beating heart. I matter. Somehow, we’ve bought into an idea that by allowing one to matter we must diminish or minimize another when in reality, there is enough room, enough space on the sprawling planet for all the hearts that beat to matter supremely.
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality . . .” (Acts 10:34,35)
God invented the idea that everyone gets a fair shake, that there’s enough love for everyone. He’s limitless; He’s love, and therefore, there is enough of Him and enough of love for all the humans.
But as a society, it seems sometimes, that we live by the law of scarcity. We allow ourselves to be controlled by a cataclysmally crushing view that there’s not enough respect and justice and love for everyone, that we have to fight to get what is our due. We’ve bought into a liar’s lament that we live in a land of lack instead of a land of plenty, a land where when one is esteemed, another is diminished.
So we’ve begun to categorize and compartmentalize because if I am to treat you less than a human being deserves, I must first somehow separate you from me. So, I’ll call you black, and I’ll call myself white. Or you’re a soldier and I’m a civilian. Or I’m an independent, and you’re a republican. And now, there’s room for me and mine to self-preserve, and if it comes down to a brawl, well, you’re in the other box, so we’ll come at you guns blazing.
But dad-gum, we’ve missed it. We’ve flat-out missed this one thread that ties us all together–the heart that beats.
We’ve forgotten the hearts of humanity–we all have these hearts that beat and pump and keep us alive on this planet. And it’s actually the heart that matters in the end.
My dad, he had his heart stopped and started several times last week. Apparently his short-circuits. The wires misfire and his heart races to catch up to the fireworks exploding inside his chest. He lands in the ER where they know him by name, and they shock him. They stop the beating in the hopes of stopping the misfiring, and then they restart him in the hope that he’ll catch the rhythm again. The rhythm of a healthy beating heart.
And I think we the people may just need a restart too.
Because we’re beating to different rhythms and forgetting that hearts don’t beat to black, and they don’t beat to blue. Hearts don’t beat to flags or anthems or nuclear weapons. Beating hearts got their start back in a garden when God breathed His breath into the nostrils of the first man. And the first man managed to get out of sync pretty quickly, and hearts have been misfiring ever since.
See, we have this tendency to zoom in on color or politics and miss the heart of the matter entirely, don’t we?
The person who refuses to stand is broken over a broken world-a world they feel is unfair and unjust, and frankly, in truth, they aren’t wrong. The world has been unjust and unfair and unkind because it began beating to the wrong rhythm. Their heart is broken, and they’re fighting for air and breath, fighting to find the right rhythm. But the rhythm can’t be found in a football stadium anymore than it can be found in congress.
The rhythm is found in a person–Jesus Christ. So whether we kneel or whether we stand, if we don’t know Jesus Christ, we don’t truly have hope.
And while a debate rages on in our country, people lose loved ones, hurting heroes give up and commit suicide, people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, children starve, and places like Puerto Rico remain destroyed. And the followers of Jesus? Well, we followers of Jesus become distracted and ineffective because we forget the real needs and focus instead on a stadium full of padded athletic elites. Let us not forget that a world filled with needs is our stadium, and we stand for our anthem by walking across the street to our different skinned/same-hearted neighbors’ home and asking them to dinner. We take a stand by feeding hungry humans. We take a stand by holding the hand of a bereaved mother as she grieves an early parting. We take a stand by insisting that the standard by which a life is valued is not the color of the life’s skin, the vocation, or the sexual preference of the human but by their beating heart.
It is the heart that matters.
Jesus always stopped and restarted the heart first.
Let’s make sure we get first things first.
Let’s stand for the true anthem . . . the anthem for which one day every knee will bow
Let’s stand for Jesus.
Stand for love.
Stand for peace.
Stand for long-suffering.
Stand for kindness.
Stand for patience.
Stand for gentleness.
That’s the restart we need.
Let’s do that in our classrooms at school, in our workplaces, in our sporting events, in our neighborhoods, in our homes, in our communities.
As believers, we pledge allegiance first to Jesus Christ. And that should inform every other decision we make. If all believers stand well for Jesus Christ, these issues of inequality and injustice will be resolved as more and more people walk in the light. The flag represents a nation that affords us freedom, yes, but Jesus Christ affords us ultimate freedom and eternal hope. That can never be taken.
Some will read this and assume I don’t care about our flag. They’ll be wrong. That flag represents a nation that has given me the freedom to write these words freely. The soldiers who have fought and defended that flag are men and women whom I love and want to stand and cheer for every time I see them. A dear friend just said goodbye to her husband as he takes another tour across Afghanistan. She’ll raise children alone while he bravely defends our ability to have these debates openly and without fear of retribution. For that flag and those men and women, I’ll absolutely stand. All day. Any day.
Others will read this and assume I don’t care about the reality of systemic inequality that does exist in our country. They too would be wrong. I will stand all day every day for those who are measured by anything other than the equal ground of a beating heart. On this planet, all humans are created by God.
He NEVER makes a mistake.
Each is worthy of life because the author of life in His great perfection and sovereignty breathed it into humanity. He gives life.
It is ours to respect, honor, and cherish.
Unborn life, aging life, colored life, poor life, different life.
All worthy of standing for.
Because Jesus–my flag, my anthem–came that they might have life and have it abundantly.
So, while we’re on this topic of standing and kneeling, perhaps we could do a stop and restart.
Let’s kneel to our God and stand for His ways.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
Teach me your ways, O Lord;
make them known to me.
Teach me to live according to your truth,
for you are my God, who saves me.
I always trust in you.
Remember, O Lord, your kindness and constant love
which you have shown from long ago.
Forgive the sins and errors of my youth.
In your constant love and goodness,
remember me, Lord!
Because the Lord is righteous and good,
he teaches sinners the path they should follow.
He leads the humble in the right way
and teaches them his will.
With faithfulness and love he leads
all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.
Keep your promise, Lord, and forgive my sins,
for they are many.
Those who have reverence for the Lord
will learn from him the path they should follow. (Psalm 2:4-12)