There is an ancient story from the Cherokee Nation that was used to illustrate the danger of getting too close to something dangerous. A young boy was making a journey through the forest when he came across a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake was very old, yet, there was enough life left in the serpent to speak: “Please,” he said, “take me to the top of the mountain so I can see the sunset one last time before I die.”
The young brave responded: “Mr. Rattlesnake, this I cannot do. You will bite me and I will die.” The rattlesnake answered: “No, I promise I will not bite you. Just take me up to the top of the mountain as I do not have the strength to travel there myself.” The young man relented and carefully picked up the old rattlesnake. They traveled to the top of the mountain and watched the sun set together. Afterward the rattlesnake turned to the young man and said, “Take me home. I am very tired, and very old.”
The young Cherokee picked up the rattlesnake once again and came all the way down the mountain. But just before he laid the rattlesnake down, the snake turned and bit the boy. The boy cried out in pain: “Mr. Rattlesnake, you promised not to harm me!” The rattlesnake could only offer a slithering answer: “Ah, but you knew what I was when you picked me up.” The lesson is obvious: Some things are best resisted by leaving them alone.
There is something dreadfully dangerous that the Christian church has been picking up for centuries now, something it can hardly resist. That something is power. It is a hoped for unification with Empire, and the deadly idea that the church can use the state’s influence to accomplish its own mission without being bitten. Regrettably, it is not a new idea.
But thankfully, a growing number of Christians have begun to recognize that there is something suspicious about attaching a national flag to the way of Christ. In fact, it’s more than suspicious; it’s slithery. For a follower of Jesus to come to such a conclusion does not mean a loss of love for one’s nation, but it means these followers will not marginalize the Lordship of Jesus. It is an acknowledgment that the Kingdom of God cannot be brought to earth by the poisonous powers of the world.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.