Last week in Bristol thousands of people paid homage and bowed their knee to a statue of a Black Lives Matter campaigner, just another example of the many demonstrations, in many countries, in support of the movement that is sweeping across our world in pandemic-like speed.
Those of us who have watched any of the football that’s been on TV almost every day this past month or so will be aware that all players, staff, and officials at matches have taken to one knee before kick-off in pledging their full support. The players no longer have their names printed on the back of their shirts, but rather, ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’. It’s safe to say that BLACK LIVES MATTER will end up being the leading goal scorer this season!
This bowing of the knee was inspired by someone who played a different type of football – the one in which they catch the ball with their hands – American football! Tomato/Toe-may-toe! But let’s not talk about semantics!
Colin Kaepernick, a professional NFL player, refused to stand for the American national anthem but instead got down on bended knee in protest against police brutality toward black people, and this gesture was adopted by proponents of Black Lives Matter.
Christians will have differing opinions, but the question is, should we too bow the knee for BLM?
At the moment for most of us that’s hypothetical, because we haven’t (as a collective) been called to. But what if at some point there is a national kneeling, much like we had applause for the NHS, or minutes of silence to mark significant events. We have already seen politicians bowing their knee in PR stunts. Refusing to comply would most likely lead to people being branded racists.
What would you do? And if you physically can’t bend your knees, just imagine that you could! Would you bow down? I can only speak for myself.
In terms of ‘black lives matter’ as a statement, of course black lives do matter. I hope we all agree about that! And some Christians in light of this fact would therefore have no qualms in kneeling as they consider it purely an act of solidarity in the fight against racism. Colin Kaepernick is a self-professed Christian, and was obviously fine with it. So why shouldn’t we be? To get all hung up and stubbornly resist assuming a simple bodily posture – well, isn’t that just legalistic? After all, who faces a moral dilemma over tying their shoelaces!
But even more fundamentally, and perhaps even more importantly, is the conviction that many hold to – that we should only bow our knee to Jesus.
For millennia, genuflection, the technical expression for bowing the knee – (I learned a new word!) – has been used and understood primarily as a gesture of submission, demonstrated by the physical enactment of lowering oneself. There is much evidence pointing to the widespread use of genuflection during the time of Alexander the Great, but the Bible records it even earlier!
I can think of three specific ways in which kneeling is seen in the Bible.
The first is as an earnest appeal – sometimes to people, and often to God. Many sick people fell at Jesus feet to plead for Him to heal them. We read of Elijah bent down pleading with God for rain; Daniel talking to the Lord in front of his window while kneeling; the prophets falling to the ground in repentance on behalf of the people; and Christ often kneeling in prayer to His Father.
It begs the question then as to whether we should pray more often on bended knee? Communication with God does not require a certain physical position, but postures do give expression to the attitudes of our hearts.
William Shakespeare wrote, “If an army marches on its stomach, a Church advances on its knees.”
Talking of armies, our nation has held many days of prayer throughout history, with some remarkable answers.
When the Spanish Armada threatened England’s destruction, Queen Elizabeth I and her subjects knelt and prayed to God for deliverance, and God sent a hurricane into the English Channel that destroyed the oncoming ships.
Prayer is powerful, and that’s why the banner for our livestreams is a Call to Prayer.
Kneeling in Scripture can also be synonymous with adoration. in Revelation, John records his vision of heaven where multitudes of people and angels and all sorts of interesting creatures fall down before the Lord in worship and praise.
Have you ever dropped to your knees at seeing the beauty of an amazing view? And for those of us who have proposed marriage, I imagine you got down on one knee! Yes, as an expression of humility and service, but most of all, love. If we will kneel before our sweethearts, how much more should we kneel before the Lover of our souls, and the One in whom we delight and find true satisfaction?
And last but not least, Biblical kneeling is also a sign of acknowledging the Lordship – the authority – of Christ over our lives.
I’ve only seen snippets, but apparently bending the knee in the sense of recognising someone’s power over you is a big theme in the drama, Game of Thrones. And if it wasn’t for the fact that Sir Tom Moore is 100 years old and dependent upon a Zimmer frame he would have been expected to kneel before the Queen upon being knighted last Friday.
But over all the kings and queens in this world – fictitious and real – Jesus reigns supreme; the King of kings, and Lord of lords, for He alone is the God-man.
And because Christ humbled Himself by becoming like us in every way apart from our sin, and by dying for our sin so that we, the guilty one’s, may live anew in Him…
God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord; it isn’t a question of if, but of when. And what this world really needs is to surrender to Christ, for He is the only hope and promise of true justice, peace, and love.
Paul talks in Romans about the freedom we have in Jesus on debatable issues. Ultimately, it’s each individual’s choice as to whether or not they bow their knee for Black Lives Matter. But we should be mindful of how our actions impact upon others – are we encouraging people to seek Christ as the solution to the problems of this world?
There are other ways in which to make a statement than just following the crowd, especially when the crowd is living in rebellion to God. Sometimes going against the grain can create opportunities for dialogue and for pointing people to The Gospel.
What’s for sure is the call to bow the knee to Christ has gone out to all, for He who came not to condemn but to save will surely return as earth’s rightful King and Judge.
So come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker (Psalm 95:6)!