Salute the Flag

One of my pet peeves in churches has always been the presence of flags. Usually two — an American flag, and a denominational or “Christian” flag (shown here). I have learned to ignore these flags, and simply accept that this is what the congregation as a whole wishes.

So, what are you, John Luke, some sort of commie pinko hippy? No; I consider myself a patriot. But my first identity remains as a follower of Jesus Christ. And I am always, always, mindful of Jesus’ words in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Repeat slowly: My kingdom is not of this world. Flags are, at best, symbols of this world; mere things to which we pledge our loyalty.

And yet, any who have followed the (American) flag desecration battles knows, that flags all too easily become objects of worship in their own right. And, hence, for a Christian, idolatrous. Flags as symbols are fine, but there is a time and a place for them. Church is not such a place; meeting for worship in the Son’s name is not such a time.

It violates what should be the first principal for our lives: give glory to God, and none other. Yes, Romans 13:1-7 instructs us to obey earthly authority, and, of course, pay our taxes, under the presumption “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” But Romans 13 may have been a redaction of Paul’s epistle in order to appease the Roman authorities. And there must always be the underlying assumption that if a government does not conform to God’s will, then it is our duty to resist it.

Whether Romans 13:1-7 is a first-century politically correct redaction, or truly Spirit-informed scripture, Jesus’ words must hold pride of place for us. And we must not confuse flags with what they stand for. Nor should we have such pagan symbols in our churches.

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