From the desk of Pastor Dave, Big Sioux Baptist, Flandreau, SD
In discussing symbolic gestures, it is important to understand the gesture does not replace the reality. The absence of the gesture has nothing to do with reality. The gesture does represent something, but WHAT is represented is vastly more important than the symbolic gesture.
During the War of 1812, Americans died literally upholding the flag of our country. Their values were important enough they attached high respect to the symbol of our nation. The opposing force could not understand those values, yet their attacking specifically the representation of independence was met by an intense resolve to remain independent. To die for a symbol is heroic to some. To pass along that resolve is even better.
Today we see different symbolic gestures happening. Some are efforts to draw attention to a cause. It is the reason behind the gesture that is important. In the days when Christ walked the earth, Pharisees liked to do many symbolic gestures. Christ rebuked them for the reality that their hearts did not honestly reflect their actions. Yes, some of their gestures were looked upon as noble. But they lost their heavenly reward because their motives were not right.
As an example of actions versus motives, we look at contributions. The Bible teaching is that we give to honor the Lord. We do not give to get. We do not give to gain praise. We do not give because we can deduct it from our tax bill. That widow with two mites was commended because she gave in faith because it was right to give, without expecting anything in return.
Some would argue the widow gave because it was a requirement under the law. While that is true, the Bible has many stories of those who gave without the coercion of the law.
Giving needs to come from a right heart attitude. That is why Christ said to bring your gift to the altar, but if you remember your brother has something against you go make things right with your brother. Short accounts, right hearts. Then the gift means something real.
In considering these concepts, it should be obvious symbolic gestures need to match what is truly believed. There also needs to be an ability to explain the reality independent of the action. Some people conform in action without a clue of the reason behind the action. Perhaps a young person does not fully understand the reason behind the action. There needs to be instruction of that reasoning. It is indeed sad civics instruction has not been an important topic in primary education in the last several decades. Even without that vital training in formal education, some young people have developed a love of country that goes to lives that exhibit good citizenship. Others are citizens, but have no desire to even pretend to be good citizens. Both groups may honor the symbolic gestures related to good citizenship, but one group really does not have their hearts invested.
May we suggest each person make sure knowledge of the reason behind the gesture is at least understood? Then decide if participation is appropriate.