We live in a time where its almost inescapable to be found in public; mostly due to our online presence. Sometimes this is voluntary and often times it is not.
And the movements of our day have capitalized on our ability to make all things public via the Internet. The Religion of Social Justice (read about them in our last post) uses public symbols to transmit their ideas simply and powerfully. They’re quite good at it.
Arguably, the most powerful gesture of our times has been kneeling. Made popular by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick, kneeling represents opposing American authoritative bodies like Law Enforcement, with the belief that there is systemic abuse of authority against minorities.
Kneeling in this context has always been a political statement, full of political meaning. And it is being used as a means to separate individuals and groups into “us” and “them”.
Think of pictures and videos you’ve seen of police officers or people representing a Christian church who are asked to kneel in order to “ally” with groups like Black Lives Matter. It must be obvious that this gesture carries greater consequences than appeasing a group or individual.
I wonder what I would do in a situation like this. Obviously, the Christian wants to hear and understand trauma and hurt, especially if its from those you know personally. And the Christian wants to show that we carry each others burdens. But kneeling then also makes a political statement. It says you are in support of this entire movement. For the Christian, it is extremely questionable to ally with a movement like the Religion of Social Justice; just look at the statement of beliefs of Black Lives Matter and determine if its in accord with the Christian faith.
I also wonder what Jesus what do.
I often tell people who are interested, yet unfamiliar, with the Bible to start with the Gospels and the story of Jesus. In the person of Christ, you see a man full of wisdom and knowledge of the human heart. It’s interesting, and also indicative of the type of being our Lord Jesus Christ is.
Jesus: A Public Figure
Jesus was no stranger to dealing with the public. Countless times he was publicly questioned about his teaching, his mission, and himself. He was put in difficult positions in order that the religious leaders might find a reason to put Him to death.
On one occasion, Jesus was asked by the Pharisees whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not1.
What they wanted was a political response.
Either Jesus would support the people of Israel and tell them to defer paying taxes, and incite the wrath of Rome. Or he would tell the people to pay their taxes to appease Rome and appear disloyal to the people who had just welcomed Him to Jerusalem as King.
Jesus asked for a Roman coin, asked whose image and inscription was on it, and after they answered him “Caesar”, Jesus famously answered:
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.2
Jesus was able to cut to the heart of his interrogators’ question. They were seeking to make his political allegiance clear to the public, thereby making his enemies clear as well.
This, I believe, is at the heart of the public kneeling we see. The cute stories of police officers and white church members kneeling with protesters leaves the audience with one conclusion: the Social Justice political movement is worthy of our allegiance. It is a gesture that reveals where one’s allegiance lies, so as to separate the “us” from the “them”.
The Christian has one allegiance, and it is to God alone. This was the crux of Jesus’s response to his interrogators. For the crowd knew that Caesar, by way of his “image” and “inscription” on his coin, perpetuated the notion that he is “the son of the god” and the “prince of peace”. The paying of taxes was to politically and religiously align with this view.
Yet Christ left the decision up to the public listener, and to those interrogating Him. You can give Caesar your allegiance, if you believe it is owed. Or you can give it to God, likewise.
In a similar way, I believe our response to kneeling must communicate that our allegiance continues to lie with Christ Jesus, the King of Kings.
I think our interactions with the Social Justice movement should point toward a far greater movement, and leave it to the public to decide. Which is why I would not respond to a request for kneeling in the typical political fashion.
Here is how I would like to respond to the request to kneel in a way that I believe Christ would desire.
If any public request was made for me to kneel, I would respond with:
Brother, won’t you come and kneel with me?
By that I mean, come with me. Let’s get out of this political atmosphere, which seeks to reduce us to political instruments.
Come to my home, meet my family, let me hear your story, and you may hear mine.
Let us regain our humanity, as opposed to political capital.
Let us regain our civility, and lose our rivalry.
Let us seek to understand one another, and build each other up in humility and charity.
Let us bear one another’s burdens, that we may shed light on our own shortcomings.
I hope we can see each other as humans in struggle with our humanity.
I hope we can recognize that there is no human political movement that will cure a broken humanity and its tendency toward sin.
More importantly, I pray that we can kneel in submission to the God who transforms human hearts and can revive communities; even those with the most vile histories.