This past week, the United States Vice President, Mike Pence, attended an NFL game and left before the game even started due to a number of players kneeling during the National Anthem. Since the event, information has emerged that points to this being a planned “walk out.” Many are upset because of the cost inevitably covered by taxpayers’ money for this “stunt.” I’m certain there are valid arguments from both sides as to why kneeling during the National Anthem is a good or bad idea. That’s not what this post is about.
I’m going to take a risk and say that Mike Pence believes that the National Anthem represents more than just patriotism to his country. For him and others, this anthem is something that has been fought for with blood, sweat and tears. Lives have been lost to ensure the ideals and freedoms of the United States of America. For many, the National Anthem is a representation of all of those things, in song form. Mike Pence thought that his walking out would make a statement of his support for our nation, as well as all that has gone into forming it. He and his advisers concluded that the financial cost and travel time spent to get there were far worth the statement they wished to make. Unfortunately, none of their desired impact has happened. No players who were kneeling stood up. No fans in support of those players have changed their minds.
We’re observing a perfect example of what it looks like to stand up for what you believe in, and gain zero traction from the opposing side. Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that the only people pleased with Mike Pence’s decision to walk out are those who already supported him? And wouldn’t it also be fair to assume that those who support the players and teams kneeling during the anthem are still in support of their actions? All that was created from the Vice President’s walk out of the stadium was more division and disappointment.
There’s a very important lesson to be learned from the actions of our nation’s leadership. The decision to fly across the country, only to leave a few moments later, was indeed a mistake — but not because of the cost to taxpayers or the intended statement. Without question, standing up for what you believe in is necessary, vital and important. The problem is that the message our Vice President was standing up for was lost by using the wrong approach.
Is it possible that many of us Christians do the same? For Gospel-believers, this is a chance for us to look inward. One of my good friends recently told me that some of his Christian relatives turned their chairs to face the wall when he and his wife danced at their wedding, because they did not agree with social dancing. Today I also read an article in which a gay coffee shop owner refused to serve a group of Christians because of their aggressive attempts to distribute pro-life literature with graphic photos of abortions to his customers. How did it escalate to that point? In any of these cases, was Jesus elevated? Was the Gospel made clearer? Were people rescued from their unbelief and selfishness? Jesus made it clear that unbelievers would know who His followers were by their love (John 12:34–35; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 Cor. 16:14; Eph. 4:2–3; 1 Peter 3:8–9).
There is no need to back down on what we believe, and, of course, it’s not always clear how to respond in difficult situations like the ones above. That being said, there is something that is very clear. No matter the situation, always ask this question: will they know me by His love?
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)