Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Controversies over symbols are convenient distractions

(Many Americans don't know the "Confederate flag" evolved over time)

The recent requests to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House are a little late, and a little misleading.

The bandwagon diatribes by news station reporters and politicians over how the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism are either preaching to the choir or falling on deaf ears, depending on which side of the controversy one stands.  People who believe the flag is about racism will not convince people who see it differently, and people who stand behind their right to raise the Confederate flag won't be changed in whatever views they might have.  Either way, we as a nation are missing the point.

I'm colorblind, I am not a prejudiced person.  I find it ironic how culturally we can focus on one symbol, as if that symbol or its absence will change the hardhearted people who hate other people based on skin color or ethnicity.  I'm sure people who hate others without a cause, will hate no matter what flags are flown or burned.  

Either way the South Carolinians go, there will be no winners.  If the flag stays, then many Americans will spew hate speeches fired at South Carolina.  If the flag comes down, the people affiliated with the Confederate flag will be painted in a corner in shame and will lash out in renewed ways, targeting "enemies" who have forced their outsider's ways on them against their will.   

One question no one seems to be asking is, why didn't the public figures now taking a strong stance against the flag (the politicians and news reporters) say something about the flag before the tragic shooting in Charleston?   Maybe they did and we all missed it?  For some politicians, I think the Confederate flag is a convenient controversy they hope to use to gain votes.  

Also, what I'm not hearing, is why do people think maintaining or removing a flag will change the mindset of people?  Once the flag came down, will all sides magically hug?  Certainly, the flag being flown over the SC Capitol offends people, that's clear.  If the flag truly stands for the Confederate that was led by Jefferson Davis, then wouldn't that mean the Confederate flag represents not just a moral issue like racism, wouldn't it also reflect on rebellion and treason against the United States?  Why not try case this in a military court?  

Arguing over the Confederate flag would be like ER doctors complaining about the brand of car a victim was driving when they wrecked, and trying to settle the argument over the car before they operated on their patient...   Culturally, we have allowed racism to continue.  Politics won't cure us of the grievous sin of racism.  Banning flags won't heal our divide.  Until people have a change of heart, a transformation of the mind, and a spiritual awakening, and we begin to see each other as humans created in God's image, racism will rear its ugly head under the guise of whatever flag is waving.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The next time you feel judgmental...

The reality is, we all make mistakes, everyone of us stumbles and falls from time to time.  Unfortunately, when Christians mess up, especially when Christian leaders fail miserably, it reflects poorly on the whole Church.   Christians recklessly give ammo to the cynics and unbelievers each time we make huge blunders, and the more public it is, the worse things seem.  What makes things worse, after a leader has a moral failing or a believer is caught up in sin, is when the rest of the church picks up stones and take aim.

I’m not sure why we are so quick to judge others, maybe it helps us take the attention off of our own flaws.  Maybe we feel we are free to judge because we see ourselves as Champions of the Truth.  Maybe we like to judge others because it helps us feel superior.  However you slice it, cutting others down is one of the most dangerous attitudes we can have.

Here’s some food for thought, for the next time you are tempted to judge others:

Jesus says the standard of perfection we apply to others, will be applied to us, “[1] Judge not, that you be not judged. [2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 ESV).  Does this mean we turn a blind eye to sin?

There is a difference between making a judgment call, and judging people.  Jesus in the same breath says, “[6] Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matthew 7:6 ESV)  I can and should recognize when someone is misbehaving, I should even take steps to protect myself from them, but I should do so without taking the next step of spiritually sentencing or condemning them.  Recognizing sin for what it is is mature -- but gleefully assigning the sinning party a place in hell is just plain sinful.

James reminds us, we aren’t in the position to judge others -- at all, “[11] Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. [12] There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12 ESV)  So, when I take it upon myself to judge others, I’m really trying to take God’s place...

When any of us blow it, what we want more than anything is mercy.  Mercy is, when we do not receive the punishment we’re due.  If we want to receive mercy, according to Jesus, we need to give it, “[7] Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 ESV).  Furthermore, Jude says we should rescue people from the fire, notice the passage doesn’t say throw gas on the fire, “save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  (Jude 1:23 ESV)

One of the best ways to avoid the immature temptation of judging others, is to daily remember the flawed person you see in the mirror, makes plenty of their own mistakes.  Another way to quiet the voice of our internal judge, is to reach out a helping hand and offer to be a healing resource.  In other words, don’t shoot your wounded, be there for the people who have messed up as an ambassador of Christ, allthewhile remembering the joys of being forgiven, “[31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)

You might be asking, “But aren’t there consequences for mistakes?” Certainly.  But who is qualified to enforce the consequences for others?  Who made any of us the enforcer of consequences?  After all, our example Jesus set included the opportunity for the crowd to stone the woman caught in adultery -- but before He told the woman to go and sin no more, Jesus merely recommended the one without sin should start throwing their stones first.  I guess the saying is true, people in glass cathedrals shouldn’t throw stones.