In 2015, our provincial government made the decision not to raise the Christian flag during Holy Week. In 2016, the new government raised the flag, only to lower the flag shortly after.1 The local municipalities did the same due to religious controversy.2 Reactions seem mixed. My challenge: let’s support the persecuted Church by focusing on Easter and the true message of Christianity.
The Christian Flag
A flag by definition, is a piece of cloth used as a symbol of a nation, or organization.3 Symbols are powerful and they can recall ideals of many sorts – good and bad. As a result, a flag can resemble unity and disunity at the same time. I think the Christian flag may be doing this in 2016.
It wasn’t until 1897 that a “Christian flag” was established, and that seemed to be initiated through a patriotic desire. The simple symbols represented Christianity in their own right: white for purity, blue for fidelity, and a red cross for Christ’s blood. In 1907, a Methodist pastor wrote the first pledge to the Christian flag:
“I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Savior for whose kingdom it stands; one brotherhood uniting all mankind in service and love.”4
While the meaning and message seemed well-intended, I’m really not ready to associate my faith with a flag and all its potential meaning. I would rather support the persecuted Church through prayer, a renewed focus on Easter, and the true message of Christianity.
Flags engage patriotism. Patriotism isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, history has shown us that if God’s agenda is derailed by human agenda and patriotism becomes the driving force, the result is painful. The Crusades are a great example of this.5 Modern examples include slavery and bigotry. My point, however, isn’t to point out the issues among Christian history, rather to show the powerful and sensitive ideas a flag can display.
I’m proud to say I’ve found eternal freedom through Jesus. I’m proud to say I’m a follower of Jesus. But I’m not quick to pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, nor am I concerned whether or not it’s raised in political spheres.
The Christian Message
I’m more concerned about spreading the true message of Christianity: love, grace and peace (or I tend to say: selflessness).
Love: God doesn’t love everything we do, but God loves everyone. He even loved us before we responded to that love. The Church is called to show that kind of love to others.6
Grace: God sending Jesus for our salvation is the whole point of Easter. The Church must protect and proclaim this message at all costs.7
Selflessness: Jesus himself acted with selflessness when He provided grace to humanity.8 We may have the right to raise a flag, but for the sake of the kingdom, is it beneficial? Paul wrote:
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.9
Christianity and Culture
In 2015, Primer Davis met with various church leaders to come to a conclusion of whether or not to raise the “Christian flag” during Holy Week.
This is what @PaulDavisMHA did when the flag issue was raised last year. He consulted with various church leaders pic.twitter.com/IhcztKbuep
— Sandy Collins (@SandyRCollins) March 23, 2016
I don’t have the minutes to that meeting, but the resulting decision was not to raise the flag.
In 2016, thoughts on this matter changed – the newly elected Primer Ball, his Liberal government and surrounding municipalities raised the Christian flag. It’s the result of our pluralistic culture. There are now numerous beliefs, values, and ideologies that are often respected and celebrated. Governments try to balance support so that equality is valued, but this process is obviously full of tension as the concern of one impacts the other.
Nevertheless, the question for Christians in this pluralistic society is this: how is the Christian message proclaimed better – by fretting over the flying of a symbolic flag, or by showing love, grace and selflessness to those who have concerns over its meaning?
How then, will we show our support of the persecuted Church? I believe that holding true to the Christian message respects those dying on account of that message.Holding true to the Christian message respects those dying on account of that message. #PersecutedChurch Click To Tweet
|⇑1||Ariana Kelland and Laura Howells, “Controversial Christian flag removed as provincial, national flags flown at half-mast,” CBC.ca, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/controversial-christian-flag-removed-outside-confederation-building-1.3503671|
|⇑2||Sue Bailey, “Flag attacked as anti-gay taken down at legislature, city hall in St. John’s,” MetroNews.ca, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.metronews.ca/news/canada/2016/03/23/flag-attacked-as-anti-gay-taken-down-at-legislature-city-hall-in-st-john-s.html.|
|⇑3||“flag,” dictionary.com, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/flag.|
|⇑4||Elesha Coffman, “Do you know the history of the Christian flag?” ChristianityToday.com, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/do-you-know-history-of-christian-flag.html.|
|⇑5||Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, vol. 1, (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2009), 296-297.|
|⇑6||John 3:16; Eph 4:2.|
|⇑8||Andrew T. Holm, “Selflessness: What The Easter Bunny Can’t Do,” accessed March 23, 2016, http://andrewholm.com/easter-selflessness.|
|⇑9||1 Cor. 10:23-24, ESV.|