For many years the word surrender was crossed out in my desk dictionary. Not pencil or ball point either. Black Scripto Permanent Marker. Even as an pastor it was a word and concept that made me cringe. Whether from loyalty, stubbornness, or a sense of commitment to something, the idea of giving up just didn't fit my outlook on life. The picture of Winston Churchill holding up the "V" for victory with the slogan, "Never, never, never give up" was prominent on my wall.
Then our worship pastor Matt McCall taught us a new song. It was about flags. Of course it's the Christ Tomlin song White Flag. If you've never heard it then you can go here for a five minute YouTube with stunning visuals and the entire song. (Please endure the short advertisement). That day when we sang this for the first time people throughout the worship center hauled out their handkerchiefs and raised them in symbolic surrender to Christ. It was the day he taught me that my allergy to the thought of giving up was actually a prideful resistance in me. For years I had sought to be a steadfast and immovable spiritual leader, and in many ways cherished the reputation of leading from a strong conviction base. We usually honor this kind of heart as being passionate, the mark of a great leader. But, that day he began a new learning curve for me, using a white flag to guide me into the classrooms of humilitas. Lesson 1 was being taught the distinctive difference between the biblical virtue of steadfastness and the prideful vice of human stubbornness. Bam!
The absolute Lordship of Christ may be one of those doctrinal positions we've allowed to fade into the background of faith. Engaging culture today seems to permit or even encourage some level of accommodation that just doesn't fit the biblical standard of Lordship. In a culture of cave-in, where few allegiances are important and quitting is the norm, standing your ground or persisting in something is an oddity. Even at church we tend to poke fun at people with strong convictions, those fundies with their ten-pound King James Bibles and Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Over-the-top believers are generally thought to be fans, you know, short for fanatics. Translation: not real followers.
In the melting pot some of us are flag wavers, especially the older boomers and builders. And, we're pretty enthusiastic and exclusive in which ones we want flying. As a red- blooded American Citadel graduate son of the south the American flag and the stars and bars have been important symbols for me. American flags are all over our house in one form or another, as are the flags of South Carolina and North Carolina, Harriet's birth state. There aren't any Confederate flags but let me confess that when "Dixie" is played, I get a thrill. Every Friday afternoon for four years our Citadel dress parade ended with the playing of "Dixie". Still, don't desecrate the American flag or denigrate the Confederate flag when I'm around. They're important symbols for me. Historic symbols.
Then, one Sunday, in a genuinely worshipful moment I raised my handkerchief while singing "White Flag". It announced "...the war is over, love has won...". If Jesus is Lord to me, then, it's the flag that defines me, and not the others.
Like many believers I cannot accept that flags had that much to do with what happened in Charleston one week ago. Removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds isn't going to curb the sinful inclinations of men. As I've stated all week it will be gesture, even a noble one, but not a solution. But, if that white flag means anything to me, then removing the Confederate flag can't create racial antagonism or resentment in me. It's the Lordship thing again. And, the white flag is the one that should fly from the mast over my life regardless of what is historic or offensive to everyone else.
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take us his cross daily and
"...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God
raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Romans 10:9, ESV