Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A Short Note on Kneeling

One issue that has arisen in recent protests is that of kneeling. Some who object to this way of reacting to the protestors have argued that they only kneel for God. Now there may be good reasons to not kneel during these protests. For one thing, the significance of the act can be a bit unclear - it is a sign of protest, of respect, of contrition, or of submission? But if by saying "I only kneel for God" we mean that the Bible restricts the use of bowing to the worship of God, then it is a poor argument. The attitude of exclusive loyalty to God is commendable, but the Bible does not teach that the physical act of bowing or kneeling must only be given to God.

The Bible does forbid bowing to images (Exod. 20:4-5). It is also wrong to bow to a person when the act intends, or is understood, to ascribe divinity to man (Exod. 20:3). And not everyone has a right to be bowed to. But it can properly serve as a sign of honor, deference, and/or submission to human superiors. Joseph's brothers bowed to the ground before him (Gen. 42:6), as prophesied (Gen. 37:9) and as everyone in Egypt was told to do: "And they called out before him, 'Bow the knee!'" (Gen. 41:43). Ruth bowed to the ground before Boaz (Ruth 2:10). David bowed to King Saul (1 Sam. 24:8). Abigail bowed to the ground before David (1 Sam. 25:23). Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba bowed before King David (1 Kgs. 16, 23). King Solomon bowed before his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs. 2:19). Jesus told a church that he would make their adversaries bow before their feet (Rev. 3:9, see also Is. 43:23), perhaps metaphorically, but with the same meaning as such an act would have communicated. The list could go on. As with most symbolic acts, you should be aware of how it is understood in your cultural context and careful with what you are communicating. But the Bible does not require us to only kneel to God. 

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