Some of us may recall hearing as children, that we needed to work ten times harder than people of the dominant culture. Our parents, teachers, and mentors told us that we needed to run harder in the race just to maintain quality of life. Therefore, as I reflect on the experiences of people of color, specifically the athletes who are employed by the National Football League, I am forced to ask, “have these men not literally run ten times faster?” Yet, the players are fighting to bring awareness to issues that people continue to neglect as reality.
Whether we agree or disagree with the practice of kneeling, we must acknowledge that racism is a very real issue in America and that the resistance of these athletes is not ungodly. I will support my claim with three points from Daniel 3, the story of the ‘three Hebrew boys.’
The first point is: God always calls us to recognize who it is exactly, we are loyal to. When the young men in Daniel 3 resisted bowing to the golden image, they demonstrated their loyalty to their God, Yahweh. They lived out what they knew to be Torah; that the God of Israel desired the undivided loyalty of His people.
The commandment sent through Moses first instructs, ‘the people shall not put any other before Yahweh, their God’ and by resisting the nationals, the three young Hebrew men adhered to this commandment.
This is also the case with these contemporary NFL players. They choose to remain loyal to the Scriptural belief about the sanctity of human lives and thus the sanctity of the lives of Black people. A fact which has been horribly and sadly disregarded in this nation. Yet, those in opposition claim that their actions of resistance are offensive to the military and the country. In response, I pose the following questions to this claim:
“When did the national anthem become sole property of the military?
Was it not offensive when Trayvon Martin was racially profiled and killed for no just cause?
Was it not offensive when an adolescent child by the name of Tamar Rice was murdered by police for having a toy gun?
What about Emmitt Till, whose image still lingers in the minds of people to this day, was that not offensive?
Alongside the claims of offense against the anthem, stands the poignant truth that Black lives have historically been and continue to be lost due to racism. Therefore, it is offensive to tell athletes they are wrong when they ‘take a knee’ to raise awareness about the issues of racial injustice in our country.
Therefore, in response to criticisms about their resistance, I ask Americans to consider where their loyalties lie: is it to a prejudiced representation of country and military and maintenance of an unjust status quo at the expense of the oppressed or is to God?
The second point is, why does resistance place fear in the hearts of the dominant demographic? King Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage when the three Hebrew men did not bow to the image. He ordered his guards to place them in a furnace!
Do you know how terrible it is for someone to want you burned?
NFL players have experienced tremendous criticism for their demonstration. They too, have been thrown into the fire, not by a king from antiquity, but from the media, a percentage of country’s population, and even by some governmental officials.
But why does resistance cause so much fear in the minds of people?
Perhaps, because resistance communicates a total reconstruction of order!
Scripture tells us to resist the enemy and the enemy will flee (Jas.4:7).
When Colin took the knee, he was resisting the enemy of injustice and whether he knew it or not he was calling for a reconstruction of order.
The third point is, God will always receive the Glory. The King noticed that there were indeed four people in the furnace instead of three. Whereas the three young men, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego experienced the protection of God’s faithful hand, King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the glory of God. The same man that tried to harm them witnessed the glory of God in His power to save them!
This ought to be true for us in this contemporary era. As we fight for what is right in the face of fierce opposition, may we also be comforted by the fact that the Lord will reveal His glory as it concerns His will. Last time I checked, oppressing another human being is an act of opposition to God’s will that all live in honor of the fact that ALL human beings are His image-bearers and therefore all human lives, including Black lives, matter.
I would like to conclude with an encouragement to the NFL players and all who work for justice and equity:
Allow yourselves to be comforted by God’s presence. You are not thugs and hoodlums. You are not criminals and you do not bring shame to your country. The day is coming when the glory of God will shine on the dark places and practices, and all will see the truth. Remain loyal to God the Father. Resist the enemy like Jesus Christ, and invite the glory OF God as revealed through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
-Stephen L. Robertson
Stephen Lamar Robertson first responded to God’s call on his life with a passion for ministry as a Youth Pastor at Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church, Los Angeles, but now works as a Children, Youth and Family Director at Lutheran Church in the Foothills in La Canada Flintridge Ca.. He graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, CA., with a Masters in Divinity. On February 11th, 2017, Stephen joined in marriage with Shantell Darby Robertson who is a faithful Deacon, Cosmetologist, and Kindergarten Teacher. In addition to serving in ministry, Stephen was an educator to visually-impaired and differently-abled youth at the Junior Blind of America and Braille Institute of America. He believes “It is important to not only educate youth in the Christian Faith, but to also ensure they are enriched to achieve their fullest potential.”