Some folks in Cochran, Georgia are having a flag problem. No one, as best as I know, is walking on it. No one is burning it. All that the Cochran city council wanted to do was raise it up the pole. And now, to avoid a big controversy, they’ve decided to take it down.
But it’s not the American flag that’s causing all of the trouble.
It’s the Christian flag.
You know the Christian flag, right? That’s what Moses was carrying when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. No wait. That’s not right. It’s what David planted in the ground right next to Goliath’s dead body. No, that’s not right either. In reality, the Christian flag is what church kids say a pledge to every year during Vacation Bible School.
I was a church kid. Growing up, I was very familiar with the Christian flag. And now that I’m a pastor, I hear kids at my church saying a pledge to it every summer at Vacation Bible School. So it would only make sense for me, a pastor, to side with the many Internet commenters who are saying that the Cochran city council has lost it’s collective mind and is now officially, “working for the evil one.”
But I’m not.
I’m glad that the Christian flag is down.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those who thinks that one’s faith should be kept private. A private faith is no faith at all. But I am one of those who believes that we don’t need a flag to live out our faith in Christ.
Here’s what I think that Jesus would say about the Christian flag flying over the Cochran city hall, or anywhere else for that matter.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (ESV)
So there you have it. No flags needed. Just love each other with the love of Christ. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything like the tolerance police tell us to do. Jesus certainly disagreed with people (Matthew 23). And it doesn’t mean that we should stop talking about sin. Jesus had a lot of confrontational things to say about sin to sinners (John 4:16-18).
It just means that love should be our motive.
Not resurrecting some bygone era of American Christianity.
Not sticking it to the ACLU.
It is possible to raise the Christian flag outside of a government building or even your church or home and still miss the very gospel that some say the flag represents. Anyone can raise a flag. But only a child of God can genuinely love as Jesus did.
In the end, the flags we waved and the cultural wars we fought won’t really matter if love wasn’t the motive. The world will look at our most passionate expressions of religion and hear only noisy gongs and clanging cymbals if we are not loving as Christ told us to.
It is that love, not a flag or a t-shirt or a bracelet, that will point others to Jesus.
So who cares what happens to the Christian flag?
What really matters is what happens to your Christ-like love. Unlike any flag, the love of Christ cannot be put on display only to be taken down at the end of each day. Genuine Christian love is a continual thing. We’ll never be perfect with it but, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we’ll try to be.
The light of Christ does not shine through a flag.
It shines through a people (Matthew 5:14-16).
And that light shines brightest when we love like Jesus did.