There’s been a lot of lively discussion lately about the Confederate battle flag. Some hotly defend it as a symbol of Southern pride and heritage, while others brand the banner as a bygone symbol of racism and slavery.
I’m a true-blue American who cherishes our rights and liberties, so I wouldn’t want to put restrictions on anyone owning or flying whatever flag they want. An internet rumor has been circulating that the federal government has forbidden the manufacture and sale of the “Stars and Bars,” but it is false. (I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but not everything your Facebook friends post is truth). And I will hasten to add that I think it’s a bit of overreach to call for the banning of “Gone With the Wind” and removal of Confederate statues from parks. Both Abraham Lincoln and Northern general William T. Sherman did not believe in complete equality for blacks, but no organized group is clamoring to expunge their images.
Still, I have a concern: some folks who are defending the Confederate banner are doing so in an uncharitable, in-your-face way. Typical of this attitude is a comment I recently read on an internet board: “(The Confederate Flag) is a protest, like a raised middle finger to the rest of the world which says I’m a poor redneck and I don’t give a (expletive deleted) what you like or what you think about me.” Even some Christians are posting the flag on their Facebook profiles and touting its glories.
I realize that we do not get out of this life without offending someone. And there have been times I’ve deliberately offended with the thought of “I don’t care what you think.” Having said this, the Bible reminds the church that we are held to a higher standard than the world:
“Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another” (Romans 14:19 NRSV).
Do you remember the controversy outlined in I Corinthians 8? Some believers were eating meat sacrificed to idols with no twinge of guilt. After all, they rightly argued, an idol is nothing. True, the Apostle Paul replied, but he reminded these happy carnivores that some of their fellow believers had been brought out of gross paganism and idolatry. Paul went so far as to say that if you knowingly eat idol-sacrificed meat in the presence of such a brother or sister, “you sin against Christ” (I Cor 8:12). He goes on to write that he would never eat meat if it would cause others to stumble in their faith.
Fast forward 2000 years. The issue is not meat but a divisive flag. Radio news host Cliff Sims recently noted, “The Confederate Battle Flag is a stumbling block to the Gospel for some people, and that reason alone should be enough to Christians to put their personal feelings and freedoms aside for the sake of the Gospel.”
If you are rebelliously or offensively hoisting the Stars and Bars with no thought of others, then you are flying your heart instead of a flag. Besides, as a follower of Christ, your task is to fly a flag that clearly tops Old Glory, the Confederate banner or any other national symbol. You have been trusted with holding high the Jehovah Nissi – “The Lord my Banner” (Exodus 17:15)
So unfurl the Stars and Bars if you want. Just remember, God will not hold you accountable for a flag you fly, but will most certainly judge the innermost motives of your heart. (I Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10)