For the past week or so there has been an uproar to “take down that flag”, in reference to the Confederate flag which flies in many places across the Southern States. The cry comes from Democrats and Republicans, from liberals and some conservatives, even Dr. Russell Moore President of the ERLC of the Southern Baptist Convention issues the call to take down the flag.
Now we all know a flag didn’t make a young man shoot people in a church prayer meeting, it was his beliefs which led him to commit such a heinous action. His worldview corrupted his thinking when he open fired on the church prayer meeting. His worldview was his overarching passion at that instant and it caused him to open fire.
I currently reside in Arkansas, a transplant to the South via California. My love for Southern living is abounding everyday. I also know some very godly down to earth Southern folks who see the Confederate flag, not as a sign of racism but a symbol of Southern pride, a heritage marker which says I am a Southerner and proud of it.
Yet on the other side we have hate groups which have embraced the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate and white supremacy. A symbol of a race war, which unfortunately is the predominant message. Before I moved to the South, that is exactly how I viewed the Confederate flag as an Hispanic American. When I moved here I was offended to see the flag flying proudly.
Until I met some of these Southern people, who have loved and embraced my family and I. People who do what they can to help you when your in a bind. People who love and embrace my children as their own.
As I sit back and contemplate on all the fuss concerning the Confederate flag, I see it from three perspectives now. There are people who view the Confederate flag as just a people proud to be from the South. Where people are extremely polite, the tea is good, and the Southern food is great, among other things. To them it’s a marker which says, I am Southern and I am proud of it.
At the same time their are those who use it as their symbol of racism and hate. A symbol for a race war. Hate is what they are selling and the Confederate flag is their brand. There is no denying this.
There is yet another perspective, I believe Paul the Apostle helps us in this area, when writing to the church in Phillipi, he begins warning them about those who say you need Jesus + circumcision for salvation. Paul tells them,
though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (ESV) Philippians 3:4-8
Paul says you think you have confidence in your circumcision, let me tell you my heritage, because if any one should have confidence it is me.
1) Circumcised on the eighth day
2) Of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews
3) As to the law, a Pharisee
4) As to zeal, a persecutor of the church
5) As to righteousness under the law, blameless
If anyone can take pride in his heritage, it is Paul. He was the standout, the Hebrew of Hebrews, as he puts it.
Now I know most Southerners out there don’t believe they need Jesus + their Southern heritage for salvation. But look what Paul says in verse 7,
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Did Paul gain from his heritage? Sure he did, if all the Old Testament points to Christ, there must be gain from his heritage. Is there gain being raised in the Bible belt of the South? Sure there is, but notice the very next phrase, I count it as loss.
Christ is so much more than the heritage you bring to the table.
Paul goes on to say he counts all things, his heritage, money, wealth, fame, future, all things loss because knowing Jesus is worth more than anything. The joy of knowing Christ surpasses anything you bring to the table, by far, there is no comparison.
Paul not only says Christ is worth so much more than all things. Paul goes on to say all things are rubbish and are worth giving up for Christ. The ESV translates the Greek word Skubalon as rubbish but other translations use dung, or as I say, it is all a pile of poo compared to knowing Christ.
Paul says everything I perceive as gain is skubalon, now here is an even bigger statement, in order that I may gain Christ. Paul, very clearly, points out I must give up whatever I put my pride and rightousness in, to gain Christ. As believers, our identity is in Christ, and everything else is a distant second to Him. Christ becomes what defines who we are, above being a Hispanic American, father, husband, wife, mother, or even a Southerner.
For the Christian, Christ is our supreme pleasure and the proclamation of the Gospel is our mission. If this is true of believers, then we must decide to take down the flag because it is “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (Rom. 14:13) ” I would also contend, not only is it offensive to some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it may prevent an unbeliever from hearing the Gospel.
Paul continues in Romans 14, “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat” or by what flag you fly, “you are no longer walking in love (Rom. 14:15).” Love for our neighbor becomes the motivation of the Christian. We must be Gospel people who are uncompromising when it comes to the truth of God’s Word. We also must be Gospel people who submit to God’s word by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ who are deeply offended by the Confederate flag.
For the Christian, the flag which should be fying above all others is the Gospel which has granted us access into God’s kingdom. Every other flag is secondary to Christ and the Gospel. Here is what Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” or which flag you fly “but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit… So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food (or a flag), destroy the work of God (Romans 14:17-20).”
Remember it’s all skubalon compared to the privilege of knowing Christ.
Until Next Time
Soli Deo Gloria