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Evangelicals & The Name

Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military generals who ever lived, conquered almost the entire known world with his vast army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the campgrounds. As he was walking, he came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death; the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly, Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, ‘either change your name or change your conduct.’

I love this story, and I would often recount it to my students, especially on a couple of occasions when I had a student named Ricky. Surname did not become predominant until the 19th century based on my cursory research, but as I was growing up, I came to understand my name meant a whole helluva lot to some very important people in my life, namely my father and my paternal grandmother.

I can still remember my father repeatedly. Without relention, my dad would drone on excessively about family, how I represented his name whenever I crossed the threshold of our front door to leave the family confines. He would constantly tell my three brothers and me outside of God family was all we had. I must admit each of my brothers has applied that ideology differently. However, it has really shaped my thinking in profound ways, still paramount in my thinking long after my father has entered eternity.

Many of my major life-altering decisions have been filtered through the prism of attempting to honor and represent the Kyles’ name with excellence. Yet, any concern about my earthly name has easily come to be dwarfed by the energy I now devote to living for the name of Jesus Christ. Of course, this evolution did not happen overnight, but that is often the case. As I have become older and I hope wiser, my fidelity to Jesus Christ has become my meat, to steal an expression of Jesus Christ found in John 4:34.

Every time we cross the threshold of our front door to enter the outside world, we represent a multi-faceted layer of entities ranging from our family, our community, our ethnicity, our country, and our vocation. The list is infinite but must include one significant additional entity: ourselves. We can never escape the realization at all points of our time on Planet Earth; we never escape the reality all our actions impact how history will judge us.

The pertinent events of this past week have brought that worldview into razor-sharp focus for me. This past week has given us the news of Chicago releasing the video of the shooting death of a thirteen-year-old African American, and the Daunte Wright shooting has dominated the news cycle all week long.

While many will seek to vilify me with the accusation of victim-blaming, I refuse to let Cancel Culture dissuade me from entering my thoughts into the public square for due consideration. I hold Daunte Wright squarely responsible for the actions that led to his demise. I submit Daunte Wright has complete personal agency, and he did so in a manner that blatantly dishonored his family name.

It is apparent, at least to me, that Daunte Wright spent the formative time of his earthly pilgrimage not taking seriously the pursuit to honor the Wright name. If he did, he would not have been an active warrant for his arrest present in the court system. He would not stand accused of pistol-whipping a female. He would not have been driving under said warrant with a broken taillight. He would not have attempted to escape a lawful police seizure. These are not the actions of anyone trying to honor anything whatsoever. All these actions bring nothing but disrepute and shame to any name.

You, the reader, are free to disagree and accuse me of judging or commenting without knowing all the facts. I would reject the former and accept the latter premise but still posit my particular view of the matter. I am now fifty-six, and I have successfully navigated the rugged contours of life absent any entanglements with the law. None of this has been possible because I have lived the life of a virtuous saint. Far from it! I am a sinner, just like every other human being, but my moral compass has always centered on the desire never to embarrass the Kyles name. This mean, sin-cursed world can strip me of many temporal possessions, but one entity no one, including Satan and all of his minions, will ever be able to rob me of is my good name. I came into this world and will seek to depart it with my name fully intact. I submit no one can justifiably say the same about Daunte Wright. Others have already accused me of blaming the victim, so that ship has already sailed. Yet, I still boldly proclaim that Daunte Wright died in a manner which no one can rightly say he lived nor died in a manner worthy of honoring the Wright name.

I can personally say if Daunte had been my son, his life would have been a source of shame and regret. I have a son, and I can honestly say if Ricky Jr. were guilty of the acts that Wright performed, I would not be on National TV or in the Press speaking one word about the actions of the Police Officer in question. It is not the Police Officer’s name that is my primary concern or even my concern in any real sense. That does not mean I have no regard for Officer or others in general; it only means I understand I only have direct control over the affairs that bear on my name and my legacy.

The Book of Proverbs is replete with admonitions to Sons (this is not to say the Bible is not concerned about the actions of daughters, by the way) to not bring disrepute to their fathers and mothers. Passages like

Proverbs 1:8: Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 6:20: My son, keep your father’s commandment and forsake not your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 10:1: The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

Proverbs 13:1: A wise son hear his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent

Proverbs 19:13: A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain (a sanguine word to both sons and wives).

Proverbs 23:22: The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Proverbs 28:7: The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.

Proverbs 29:3: He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.

Proverbs 30:17: The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.

So, if I am guilty of victim-blaming, what charges are you ready to lay at the feet of Holy Scriptures? Can the Bible speak any clearer about the necessity of a son honoring their family’s good name with their actions? The actions of Daunte Wright were repulsive, including his actions the night of his death.

We must do so with circumspection and a healthy dose of humility, but we must do so nonetheless. Daunte Wright is no innocent victim. As the last passage I listed from Proverbs reveals, “the eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.”

Let me translate that passage into real frank contemporary language, “when you chose to disparage your family name with wanton, sinful behavior, you will reap a whirlwind of hurt to include possible sudden and swift death.”

I will have to refrain from delving into the Chicago case of the thirteen-year-old shot at 2:30 in the morning. I will just inquire in the passing, “what in the world was a thirteen-year-old out in an alley at that ungodly time of the morning?”

I would similarly submit the same thesis for this case. This thirteen-year-old did not honor his family’s name. I will leave it to God to sift the level of personal accountability due to the thirteen-year-old. All I know is whatever we do either brings honor or disrepute to us as the individual, to our family, and Evangelicals to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

I am not perfect, and I will never claim such. I say ubitiquously I am the Chief of all Sinners. That will always be true, but Holy Scriptures still authorize me to assess the actions of others consistent with God’s reveal Will for what constitutes proper actions for human flourishing.

Daunte Wright and the thirteen-year-old failed and failed miserably. They and they alone are solely responsible for their actions. No one made Daunte Wright commit the acts he committed on the night of his demise. There is no evidence anyone forced the thirteen-year-old to be out on the streets of Chicago in a dark alley at 2:30 AM with a twenty-one year who had a gun and alleged firing eight shots.

As always, feel free to let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

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