Social Media’s Response to Jonathan Isaac Shows us how Little the World Understands Christianity And How Much It Needs Jesus

Picture via NBA.com

There have been 8 NBA games played since the league resumed on July 30th. In those 8 games, 206 players took a knee during the National Anthem. Donned in Black Live Matter t-shirts,the players linked arms and raised fists in protest of police brutality in America. There was one player, however, who did participate. Jonathan Isaac, a 22 year old power forward for the Orlando Magic, stood for the National Anthem, wearing his white and blue pinstriped jersey as his teammates knelt beside him. Isaac deviated from a protest so coordinated and agreed upon by the players that it was mentioned on the broadcast of the Utah Jazz-New Orleans Pelicans game that part of the agreement the players made to come back was that they would be allowed to make the Black Lives Matter Movement a focus of the games. The question every viewer naturally had was “why?”, and the journalist to ask it was Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report.

Jonathan Isaac’s answer to both questions is best summed up by two lines that he gave:

“kneeling or wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt don’t go hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives.”

“Black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel.”

If you have spent any amount of time on Twitter, the responses to Isaac’s comments will not surprise you one bit:

Obviously, Isaac’s response was not well received by many staunch supporters of Black Lives Matter. The clear line of thinking linking all of the tweets I saw opposing Isaac’s explanation was that the Gospel he presented was not of value, either because it had brainwashed him or contradicted Jesus or was just “All Lives Matter” with a fresh coat of paint. For the world, the solutions to social justice issues come in two forms: protest and force. We have seen both countless times throughout history, from America winning the Revolutionary War to the March on Washington to World War II and to Gandhi. The Gospel does not fall into either of these two categories. Where protest and force strive to change policies and systems, the Gospel strives to change hearts through the resurrected Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

History proves that the Gospel has worked. Frederick Douglass, the man who is largely credited with convinced Abraham Lincoln to make the freedom of slaves a priority, had this to say about his conversion to Christianity:

“I consulted a good old colored man named Charles Lawson, and in tones of holy affection he told me to pray, and to “cast all my care upon God.” This I sought to do; and though for weeks I was a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through doubts and fears, I finally found my burden lightened, and my heart relieved. I loved all mankind, slaveholders not excepted, though I abhorred slavery more than ever. I saw the world in a new light, and my great concern was to have everybody converted. My desire to learn increased, and especially, did I want a thorough acquaintance with the contents of the Bible.”

Another example is John Newton, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. Newton was a slave trader in the mid-1700s, and was known among his crew mates for being one of the most vile men to be walking the Earth. Miraculously, he converted to Christianity and became a staunch Abolitionist. He went on to mentor fellow Christian William Wilberforce, who would end up spearheading the Abolitionist movement in parliament, culminating with the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

While history is littered of examples of the Gospel being an effective means of bringing about social justice, but these are not mentioned in secular settings because the life of Jesus and the Gospel is not understood in secular settings. How can one understand the miraculous power of the Gospel and being Born Again by the Spirit unless they experience it? Any Christian can testify that the Gospel has more power than any protest, and the world will not understand that until they know the Gospel themselves. And how can the world understand the Gospel unless they understand the life of Jesus? Did Jesus stand up for the oppressed during his ministry? Yes, absolutely. From the Samaritan woman to the lepers, Jesus shows compassion to those who society stomps on. But was the purpose of Jesus’ ministry to stand up for the oppressed? No, Jesus came to reconcile sinners to God.

John 6:35–40

[35] Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. [36] But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. [37] All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (ESV)

Jonathan Isaac very clearly understands the purpose and power of Christ. He knows that the Gospel has a transforming power that no amount of protest has, and that a relationship with God is far more valuable than anything on this Earth no matter how good it may be.

There is another group of people who misunderstand the message Isaac was sending to the masses:

If you watched the interview, you will note that Isaac’s response has nothing to do with the flag or America. What we see here is a group of people co-opting Isaac’s actions and using it to push their own message, which is that not standing for the National Anthem is profoundly un-American and that all should stand as a show of respect towards our country. The dichotomy is astounding. Isaac presents the life-changing message of the Gospel, which establishes a relationship between a believer and God himself. The other is squabble about how important it is to stand for a two minute song.

These responses to Isaac stand as proof that what idolatry does best is blind it’s victims to the importance of Christ. Social justice is important, but we must remember that what happens on this Earth is only temporary. Jesus showed us in Matthew 9 that spiritual needs trump physical needs when he forgave a paralyzed man of his sins before healing him. America is a good country and we should be good citizens, but Christians are primarily citizens of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, not a 244 year old country. While it can be discouraging to read posts that neglect Christ, it should compel us out of love to preach the Gospel of Jonathan Isaac did. No soul is beyond the saving reach of God, no pain is beyond his healing and no issue is beyond his fixing. Trust in the Lord.

Picture is from https://www.nba.com/article/2020/07/31/jonathan-isaac-stands-anthem

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