Pre-blog disclaimer – this could be categorized as political in nature, even though it is not intended to be. It also could offend, which never bothers me at all. . . .
Growing up (and living my entire life, to date) in the South, there are things that can be said and seen that I am accustomed to. I’ll give you a few examples:
Y’all – It’s a real word. It means the same as “you guys” to you non-Southerners. Doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, I will continue to use it.
Sweet Tea – Two months after getting married, my good friend Chris called to have me walk him through making sweet tea (he lived here for a little over a year of college). He’s from Illinois and lives in St. Louis. No one above the Mason-Dixon line could help. You boil tea bags. You add sugar while it’s hot. If you do it right, you’re OK if you don’t drink anything else with a meal ever again.
“Ma’am” (and, to a lesser degree, “Sir”) – I will use this word to respond to you regardless of your age. Don’t be offended. My kids are still in progress, but I think more of them and of yours if they know how to use this term of respect.
The list could keep going for a while, as we all know. I’m sure someone from Michigan could produce a list, as well as those from Boston, Northern California, Eastern Tibet, and just about anywhere on Earth. And as many things that are cute and folksy, exist an equally-extensive list of things that cause us to either cringe or feel a little embarrassment that it links us to that part of our culture.
For me, one of those things is the affinity we have for not caring when we’ve truly offended someone. Not the offending I referenced earlier when someone will respond that they’re not old enough for me to say “yes, ma’am,” to them. I mean a true, hurt feelings, relationship-changing offense.
I have caught myself playfully grabbing the noggin of a boy from time to time. Either one of my three, or one that I either know the parents or know the kid well enough to play with them. I didn’t invent this little move – a lot of adults will do the same thing. Just a little tousle of the hair or something similar. Doesn’t make either the kid or the parent(s) bat an eye. It is a culturally acceptable thing to do. When we traveled to India a few years ago, we were given a list of things to try not to do. While most of India is Hindu, Buddhism also exists. Buddhists believe that the spirit resides on the top of an individual’s head. So, touching the top of anyone’s head is highly offensive (I mean, who wants someone man-handling their spirit?).
Walking into a house in the United States with your shoes on is acceptable, if not expected, unless otherwise instructed by those who live there. Kicking off your shoes at the door of a strangers house would probably get you some strange, so-you-think-you-live-here-or-something looks. But in most Asian cultures, NOT kicking off your shoes before entering a house would be a most disrespectful act.
Again, we could come up with more examples, but I digress for obvious reasons. But, I bet most of us would not intentionally offend someone. Especially someone we do not know.
Those of us who are believers in Christ have a set of instructions for our time on Earth. Acts 1:8 sums it up – take the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever you go so that others may know and believe. Jesus lived the life that showed us how to do that – love, be kind, have compassion, and don’t compromise your faith.
(Here comes the part where I may offend.)
So, I ask you people of the South, my people (in the geographical sense). . . . what’s up with this stupid flag? You know the one I’m talking about. For four years, the Confederate States of America existed. Then it didn’t anymore. And now, 160 years later, the flag that was used (actually one of the 4 or 5 they used, but whatever) to represent those states continues to be a dividing force when we don’t have anything else to talk about.
But stop before you label me or celebrate me, depending on your side of the argument. I’m here to point a finger, alright, but a finger at both sides.
Those who refuse to give it up say that it is their heritage and do so with almost spiritual reverence. What heritage? Even if you can trace an ancestor back to someone that fought in the Civil War, why is this part of your heritage so important? Odds are, there are probably some things you would unearth that you aren’t very proud of in your ancestral history, if you had access to all of that information. So why is this such a point of pride?
And to those of you that it offends to the highest degree, I won’t pretend that I know what it’s like to be a different skin color than the one I have. I also don’t know what it’s like to be from another country, to be a female, or to have the inability to spell correctly. What I do know is, when you fixate on something that you are bound to be offended by – you will undoubtedly be offended by it. Simple logic.
The question for both those who are offended by this flag and those who hold on to it with white knuckles is this: how do your feelings towards it help you accomplish the challenge laid out in Acts 1:8?
Read Chapter 8 in 1 Corinthians. I’ll give you a quick recap. There were tons of issues for new believers in Corinth, so Paul addressed a lot of them in a letter (and later, in another – more issues than he first thought, I guess). In Chapter 8, it’s about what they eat. Some new believers still clung to the Old Testament belief that certain foods are forbidden. Other new believers had moved on to Christ’s teachings that removed a lot of those barriers. It was a cause for contention within the church.
Paul basically reassures them that they can eat whatever. But, he also tells them that if what they are eating offends another person, if it causes them problems with either receiving the gospel or with advancing in their walk with Christ, then don’t eat it. In fact, the last verse in that chapter says “if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.”
In other words – let’s care more about the brother or sister next to us. Either they need Jesus or they have Him and need more of Him. (That describes us all, by the way.)
So, if my lime green shirt is keeping you from wanting to know more about my Jesus, I won’t wear it. If the fact that I’m a St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan makes you question my faith, I won’t bring it up. In any circumstance, I wouldn’t want my selfish, human nature to be the wedge between you and the Father. And that’s more important than my shirt, my baseball team, or your flag.
It just can’t be that important.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” – Acts 1:8