Week 10 of the NFL regular season marked the 4th start for the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick after he began the year as the second string Quarterback. It also marked 11 weeks since his first peaceful protest of the American criminal justice system by not standing during the National Anthem.
After this act of resistance, Kaepernick defended his actions stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.” Ironically, the conversation that occurred afterwards in news outlets was about everything except the focus he communicated.
I’m almost certain he didn’t expect his message to be so largely quieted behind the much less important act of protest. I’m also reminded of parallels between reactions to Kaepernick’s protest and the costs of discipleship that Christians are implored in the Bible to heed in following Christ. These costs described in Luke 14:25-35 touch on relational, personal, and financial sacrifices necessary in taking up one’s cross and following Christ. In the Gospel’s radical nature, God graciously decides to satisfy the wrath owed to mankind because of their sin through the sacrifice of His perfect son, Jesus.
Because of this alone, we’re made right with God through Christ’s sacrifice and are also called to live a radical life poured out for the sake of others and redeeming the World from darkness. In the same way that God’s decision to intervene on our behalf had a cost, a Christian’s redemptive work in the world has costs that you should also expect when participating.
Here are some basic expectations you should have in deciding to use your platform and ultimately your life to showcase Gospel truth.
- Expect Rejection And Persecution.
To be clear, Kaepernick reportedly wasn’t starting because of his performance and not because of his protest. However at the moment he took a knee, he became the target of vast criticism, outrage, and hate. Since then, he has even received numerous death threats along with other forms of hate and criticism. 1 Peter forewarns that Christians will face persecution and rejection for proclaiming truth. Christ even warns in John 15 that we’ll be hated as he was. This persecution may be through vocational discrimination, social rejection, and even physical safety, but regardless of form, it will come. This is especially the case when truth challenges dominant cultural and societal norms that people have benefited from such as sin, wealth, and privilege.
- Expect Misunderstanding.
It’s funny how from the start, Kaepernick’s explanation of his protests were clear, directed, and concise. Yet his critics almost entirely ignored this in order to misconstrue his aims as anti-patriotic and anti-police. There’s an incredible amount of strength that we as fallen humans use to hang on to our brokenness; especially when it’s our personal bias, depravity, and sin. Expect to see this same resistance in others through the form of misunderstanding and defensiveness when you’re standing up for truth. Whether it’s the highlighting of sin taken as personal attack or the naming of historical inequities misdeemed as sewing division, misunderstanding is an expected response. This is extremely frustrating if we do not remember that people often and greatly misunderstood Jesus. The power of life in Christ is the mystery that God alone, not our well-argued points, can awaken dead hearts to life and light.
- Expect Follow-Up Work.
Kaepernick’s critics were further frustrated and surprised to see Colin follow up to his protests with thorough efforts and financial contributions. It reflected a real investment as opposed to the suspicion of shallow motives. Shouldn’t the call to Christian Discipleship look the same? Shouldn’t we devote our time, prayers, resources, and voice to the call of helping people love God and love others? Shouldn’t the imploring of James 2:14-17 on faith and work be taken so seriously that a malnourished brother or sister is not only given faith, but also food and clothing? If so, then we should expect legitimate and thorough follow-up work as a cost of discipleship.
Kaepernick’s resistance in itself was not the Gospel. It also hasn’t been explicitly linked by him to any sort of Christian motives. However, it is a model of the boldness and action Christians should have toward injustice and the type of creative initiative the Church should be leading in being a restorative presence in the light of oppression. It is an integral outworking of the Gospel for those who believe that all people are made in the image of God and are owed the dignity inherent with that belief.
Most of us don’t have multi-million dollar platforms to risk and work from when carrying out our call to discipleship and standing on truth. But as Christians, we do all have a priceless purpose that was paid for by the most costly of sacrifices through Jesus. Because of that, wherever we are should be a platform for truth to be told and powers of this world to be torn down.
Whether at work, school, or in social settings, we should be careful not to underestimate the opportunity we currently have to use that platform. If we don’t utilize this opportunity, we also take a knee, not as Colin Kaepernick did in peaceful protest, or as Jesus did in humbly submitting himself to the arrest that would lead him to the his salvific crucifixion (Matthew 26:53), but in quiet submission to the darkness and oppression we see daily.