Recently, two white flags mysteriously appeared on the Brooklyn Bridge. NYC police and counter-terrorism units were disturbed by the “breach of security.” While this is true from their perspective, I like to think something more beautiful happened. I think whoever put up those white flags had a brilliant idea:
Create a clear vision of peace.
Maybe the flag bandits wanted something more, something better than our current reality. I think maybe they were raising white flags of surrender.
The past weeks have brought an onslaught of terrible news all over the world. Terrorism. Beheadings. Bombing. Ebola. For this news our hearts are heavy. For this we pray. For planes shot down, for lives bombed and destroyed, for missing Nigerian girls, for all heartache and tears—we pray, Jesus.
But strife has not been limited to the distant fields and remote places of war—rage and accusatory speech has become the popular voice. Our new trend is a scorched-earth policy, a burning of the opposition. If anyone disagrees with the vox populi stand on health-care, contraception, the Middle East, gay football players, politics, they are burned to a crisp. In our current free-speech economy, there can be no dissenting voices.
No prisoners, no survivors.
This grieves me.
Some popular media outlets turn up the volume on rhetoric. They hawk fear and overstate facts. Billions are made by creating “straw men stories,” then tearing them down to the point of absurdity. There is immense financial pressure, earnings per share, for website clicks and viewer attention. Manufactured drama is a proven way to increase ratings and make money. Outrage equals cash. My temptation is to fire right back. But I am not called to imitate this outrageous tone.
There are times to speak out.
But my default reaction cannot be rudeness, push and shove, or angry fire and brimstone. I can do great damage in the name of political correctness, equality, love, or worse, in the name of God. In my worst moments, I try to push God off His throne and become the one in charge of judgment. And I know I am not the first “species who was deceived, who lusted for His job.”
We must relinquish our throne-lust.
When we default into judgment, we do not embody the strange Love of Christ.
Love calls us to offer our other cheek.
It calls us be “patient and kind.” (I Corinthians 13) This strange Love is something different than the popular voice of manufactured drama.
- Loving our neighbor means, for our part, being friends with people who believe and behave differently than us.
- Loving our neighbor means loving everyone, even those with whom we disagree. Especially those.
- Loving our neighbor means emptying our hands of verbal hand-grenades and replacing them with flowers and boxes of pizza.
It means hearing the Quiet Voice say, once again, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven… if you love only those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:44-46)
May we all be white-flag bandits.
May we raise the white flag of surrender—even if it is hard or scandalous. May we remove our hand from the panic button, even if everyone else is pushing it. May we think before we tweet our reactions or call people names on social media. And may we embody the Love of One who was loud in His silence, and thus be known by our love and our strange-loving Christ.