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“THEY DIDN’T COME OUT FOR THE ANTHEM!?!?!!! I’m done with the Steelers!  I’m burning my Steelers gear.  I’m turning in my season tickets.”  This is a very typical response to what took place this past Sunday.  All across the country people were affected by the actions of the athletes this past weekend.  Everyone has an opinion.  Divisive?  As much as anything in our recent…and not so recent history.

Cutting to the chase, here’s my beef with the whole thing.  It’s lazy.  It takes no time to lump people together and make a decision as to their character.  This player stood?  Good guy.  That player knelt?  Bad guy.  Boom.  Done.  Granted, given your opinion/stance the good/bad might be the exact opposite.  Either way.

It goes back further than that though.  Police unfairly and illegally beat a black man on a traffic stop?  All police are bad.  A black man draws a weapon on police and gets shot?  All black men who have been brutalized by police had it coming.  It’s not just the black/white issue.  Religion, age, regional/national/international cultures and really, anything else can and does divide us.

We look to the indicator that the other side is bad.  What is it that symbolizes the fact that the other side is wrong?  When we find it, it’s done.  Confirmation that my fear has been realized.

It’s lazy…and sinful.  If Alejandro Villanueva, who is being revered for coming 20′ out of the tunnel to stand for the anthem, was found to have beaten a puppy with a cat, he would now be a horrible person.  If a player who knelt for the anthem pulled someone from a burning car he would then be thought of as “ok.”

Symbolism is powerful.  Symbolism is effective.  Symbolism in judging character?  Sinful.  It’s just not that easy to know a man by one action or one snapshot in time.  Even further than that it’s just not a complete picture of the complexity of man.

We were created in the image of God (for the atheists out there humor me).  Sin has impacted and polluted that image.  When sin happens to you, you are changed, hurt.  When you choose to sin, it has an impact on yourself and others.  No one is excused from this.  Even Jesus, perhaps more than any other, was effected by sin.  Yet He, hanging from a cross, said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

People are good, sin has changed them.  My sin looks different from yours.  The sin that has made it’s way to me is different than what you have experienced.  It, therefor, has changed me and made me different than you.  The parts of me that outwardly are crap are most likely a result of said sin.

Does this excuse the actions of any individual?  Certainly not.  But to quickly dismiss anyone solely upon an action, statement, belief, or symbolic protest is simply wrong.  There is more to the person than that.

It is a very useful tool of the enemy.  He finds ways to divide and destroy.  His goal is to confuse and distort.  His focus is on the bad and ugly.  The more we hate, the less we love.  The more we right off, the less we forgive.  The more we hurt, the less we heal.  The more we focus on what’s on the surface, the less we see what’s underneath.  The face lies but the heart feels.

It’s easy to quickly judge and pick sides.  Outward symbols give us justification for our impatience and ignorant snap judgments.  It is the higher road of compassion, tolerance, and love that lead us to personal insight and understanding.

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