Dear Covenant Community,
In recent weeks there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the kneeling of the basketball players during the national anthem. I am sure that you do not have to be told that the response of the Covenant community and especially the broader community has been divided on this issue. As I have watched firestorms explode on Facebook with sharp, dogmatic words flying around on social media, I have been troubled at how quickly we can throw out unity and mercy and replace it with anger and contention. This stark division is what motivated me to write this article. My purpose here is not to say that those supporting either position (the kneeling or standing during the national anthem) are right or wrong. Rather, my purpose is to seek to know how our heavenly Father would have us respond to each other in our differences.
My first desire is to remind you whose we are. As Christians, we are Christ’s; we are a body and He has made us one with himself (Romans 12:5). Because this is true of us, the Bible calls us to unity with one another. I think we all believe this, at least theoretically. As you read the familiar verses that follow, I beg you to not gloss over them.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” -Eph. 4:1-3
As Christians, God has called us to himself and made us ambassadors of his Gospel (2 Cor. 5:20). As ambassadors we are to represent him to others as he has been to us. He humbled himself. He was gentle. He was patient. He bore with us in love. He did all of this when we stood shaking our fists against him and were completely undeserving of it. When we consider this, how much more gentleness, humility, patience, and forbearance should we not show our own brothers and sisters with whom we disagree? Remember what Jesus told his disciples in John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As I conclude I want to give some practical points I would like you to consider in light of the things I have mentioned. The first is that you be willing to be uncomfortable. No protest, no matter how it is done, is meant to make us feel comfortable. Some have said that there has to be a better way for students to express their protest. Maybe there is. Or maybe not. Perhaps, we should pay more attention to and put more thought into understanding the reason they are protesting than the means by which they convey that message. Is there a bigger issue and if so what are we going to do about it?
The second thing I would like you to consider is that our brothers and sisters on the basketball team who have chosen to kneel have not been rash in their decisions. They have been thoughtful and are acting out their conscience regarding issues of injustices. Even if you disagree with how they are doing it, may I ask you to try to better understand where they are coming from and what they are doing. To the basketball players, I would ask if you would provide more clarity on the specifics of what you are protesting. To say you are protesting racial injustices is true, but in some ways vague. Some people might already believe that there are racial injustices, but others may not; could you help us understand what those are?
The third thing I would say is to converse! Talk to your friends about this issue and listen to people with an opinion different from your own. As you do, listen first, especially if you disagree with the person you are talking to. We can demonstrate humility by listening and gentleness by trying to understand and therefore demonstrating love. Let that be our testimony. In our nation these issues have caused a lot of controversy and division. As Christians, we have an opportunity to show that these issues can be addressed in a loving way. As a student body, for the most part, I have seen people seeking to understand and address these issues. Let us continue by conversing well.
My last admonition would be to pray. Pray for wisdom and understanding. Ask God to give our campus, community, and nation a spirit of humility, gentleness, and love. Ask God to forgive us for how we have not sought to defend those who are treated unjustly and to help us seek justice. This is not the first and it will not be the last issue that gives opportunity for divisiveness in the body of Christ. We have seen it with players kneeling across the country, this past political election season, and in other heart searching issues. As we are confronted with each issue and address them together as Christians, let us remember that Jesus has bought us with his own blood and our identity is in Him.