(10 Minute Read)
If my Communication degree has taught me anything, it’s the importance of defining words and phrases to clarify communication before we start.
When we say “Black Lives Matter”, what does that mean?
It’s been a phrase that’s united millions of people across the world, and yet, the phrase has been villainized by many others.
So to start:
“Black”: a black or brown person; a person of color. For this movement I don’t think the description just stops there, though. I think the movement represents all marginalized or oppressed people across the world, as the fight for justice includes all people and people groups.
“Lives”: A being with a heart, mind, spirit, and soul; a person created in the likeness and image of God. A pretty straightforward definition if you ask me.
“Matter”: Be of importance or have significance. This is the part of the definition I think people don’t understand. At least for the overwhelming majority of those that use the phrase or hashtag “BlackLivesMatter”, this word does not mean, “matter more”, or “matter more than white people” or “matter more than police”. It simply means that they have inherent value that no human gets to decide “yes” or “no” on.
So to put it all together, “a black or brown person, who is made in the image of God and fully equipped with a heart, mind, spirit & soul, is important and has value.”
I think that makes sense.
Now is the tricky part.
Why do people get offended by that?
God’s Word shows us that there are times when His attention is turned directly to those who are hurting and marginalized, and how people, God’s children even, reacted poorly to His decrees. The Father’s heart for justice and mercy is seen clearly from cover to cover of the Bible. It’s written in the laws, the covenants, and prophecies that make up the Living Word of God. But perhaps the clearest words of justice, and consequently, the explanation of the Father’s heart, come through the life and words of Jesus, Himself. Let me share two of these instances with you.
The Lost Son is the story of two brothers–an older brother who respects his father and the inheritance he is getting, and a younger one who does not. In a sign of disrespect, the younger son takes his father’s inheritance, and squanders it all on an extravagant, but lifeless living. Meanwhile the older brother is busy working for his father and doing all the right things that he asks of him. Each day the father stands at the end of his driveway and looks out, longing for his lost son. When the younger son realizes his mistake, he hopes that his father would have pity on him and take him back, not as a son, but as a servant, like he deserves. As he returns home, his father sees him and runs after him. Instead of condemning him, he immediately embraces him and calls the whole neighborhood together to have a party in celebration of his new-found son. What a reunion! What a celebration the father is having because his son was dead and lost, but now he is found!
However, when the older brother hears about the party, jealousy overtakes him and he refuses to celebrate or give attention to this reckless brother of his. Despite the pleading from his father, he won’t move.
Then come the famous words of the Father:
“My son, you are always with me by my side. Everything I have is yours to enjoy. It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed, because this brother of yours was once dead and gone, but now he is alive and back with us again. He was lost but now he is found!”
Rather than celebrate and focus on his younger brother and the party their father was having for him, the older brother chose to look at how uniquely different the father was treating him, and because his father had seemingly never thrown a party for him, envy was this sons first choice.
So how do Black Lives Matter and this lesson connect?
I can explain it the only way I know how: from my own story. I’ve been jealous of the attention that the Father was asking me to give to my black and brown friends, so, in envy, I thought I needed to take that attention and glory back for myself. I was the older brother who had seemingly “done all the right things and stayed out of trouble” and still the Father was focused on my younger brother who was hurting and in need, and I was jealous.
To be clear, I’m not comparing the black community to the Lost Son because they have been prodigals. I’m comparing their stories because the Father has His attention focused on them.
I am, however, comparing the older brother and the white community because of the similar attitudes and jealousy they share.
In the lesson Jesus teaches, and in my own life, it wasn’t that the Father never gave attention or deep care to the older brother–He definitely did–it was that the older brother couldn’t look past his own anger and shame to see the cuts and bruises his younger brother was dealing with–cuts and bruises his Father needed to spend time with in order to heal.
For my Christian brothers and sisters who refuse to acknowledge the terms and the statement, BlackLivesMatter, I believe you are in this same position I was. So stay with me as I explain
Like I said, I’ve been in your shoes.
I’ve had the thoughts and said the phrase, “All Lives Matter”, as a reply to this movement.
I’ve thought this was a fight between two sides (black and white) to figure out who matters more.
But we have to stop right there and make it clear, that’s not what this is about.
It’s not a matter of one life being greater than another—that’s never the argument when the words “Black Lives Matter” are spoken. It’s a matter of valuing a community that has been gravely dishonored, abused, and oppressed for far too long. A community that has both physical and emotional wounds deeply embedded into their soul; wounds that the Father is currently tending to. So we, too, should focus our attention on them.
To say, “Well don’t ‘All Lives Matter’?”, is to act out of childishness and ignorance. Which is something we can no longer allow in our world, and especially not in the Christian community.
I have to confess I unfortunately haven’t always seen it this way. I’ve not stood alongside or held the hand of my black and brown friends as they’ve watched another person who looks just like them be murdered in front of our eyes.
I need to apologize for that.
To all my friends of color, I need to apologize for hearing your cries for help and not coming to your side; for being the jealous older brother who was too focused on myself to care about you. I’ve wronged you in ways I know I can’t ever understand. But I am sorry.
I recently heard a pastor use the phrase “Recovering Racist” to describe himself. He said we are all recovering from racism in some way because racism is in-and-of itself a product of sin. So naturally we all are prone to a certain prejudice or bias of some sort—white or black. It’s just what comes easy to us. I am embarrassed, angry at myself, and disappointed to admit that I have been racist, and most likely still am racist in some ways. But that doesn’t mean I’m not changing. I’m recovering and I desire to have a humble heart. A humble heart that does not automatically pop off and get angry when someone tells me (or white people) that there are things we need to change.
I’ve heard people say they “can’t get behind the BLM organization” because they are “socialist” or “Marxist”, which could be true, but I personally don’t see that. Maybe they are. What I do see from them is an organization fighting for justice for all people, like the American anthem declares but contrary to what the American system has shown.
Still, I could be wrong in my analysis of this organization. But even if you can’t get behind the organization, are we really that insecure in our faith and our identity that we can’t make the statement “Black Lives Matter”? To my Christian brothers and sisters who know that every human being bears God’s image and thus “matters”, yet you say you “can’t get behind the organization”, are we really that shallow of faith-filled people that we can’t separate a phrase “Black Lives MATTER” from an organization that shares the same name?
That seems elementary of us.
If a black person tells me, “I’m hurt and afraid and concerned about the way people like me are treated,” is it my job to tell them, “Well, I think you’re forgetting that ‘all lives matter’ so you shouldn’t be so focused on yourself”? No.
Is it my job to tell them, “Well, that’s not me, I’m not racist, and actually did you know…(some unhelpful, most-likely-biased statistic)”? No.
To make it less of a “race issue”, if any person tells me, “I’m hurting because…”, or, “I’m afraid because…”, or, “This is my view of the world because…”, is it ever my job to interrupt them and tell them, “Oh, but this is how I feel because…”? No.
It is NEVER my job to devalue, overlook, minimize, neglect or invalidate the person (and their real emotions) standing right in front of me.
It is ALWAYS my job to listen with a humble heart (see James 1:19) and learn how their world has been shaped so I can understand them more and partner with them.
This is especially true for the follower of Jesus. My role is never to “drown out” the cry’s for help. On the contrary, my role is always to listen, intently and gracefully. And to always, always, always come alongside the one in pain and to mourn with them—even when, and especially when, I don’t quite understand their pain. In Romans, Paul doesn’t tell us to “mourn with those who mourn…when you understand their mourning.” No, he tells us plainly, “mourn with those who mourn.” That’s our role.
So, when we use the phrase #BlackLivesMatter, it’s to shine a light on the very real oppression and systemic hatred that exists in our world today against black and brown people. It’s to elevate the cries high enough so that not a soul in the world can ignore or drown them out any longer.
As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, our role is to give a voice to the marginalized and the broken ones. That’s what seeking justice looks like.
I realize healing and reconciliation is going to take time. This systemic sin of slavery and racism has been ingrained in the soils of America for 401 years, so a few months, or even years, of fighting against evil are not going to be the end all. But I won’t let that dishearten us.
But imagine being so dedicated to justice and reliant on God for change that when we hand the keys of this world over to our children and grandchildren we give them space to finally, at last, remove the roots of racism from our world. By the end of our lives these roots will be fully exposed and our children will be the ones to dig the trees out and throw them in the fire, for good. That’s the hope I cling to. It’s not going to happen in one year or even a few years, it will take a generation to make a sweeping change. A generation of people making the daily decision to partner with our God in honor and in love. Will we be the ones to do this?
I’ve never been scared for my life when I’m out jogging, driving down the road, shopping, or getting pulled over by a police officer—and I KNOW the same cannot be said for my black and brown friends. That’s disheartening and scary. To fear for your life on a daily basis? That’s not how someone should have to live, especially in a country that “values freedom” as much as ours does. So I’m fighting daily for that change to come.
We can never say, “Slavery has been dead for over 150 years, so can we get over it already,” as I’ve embarrassingly thought before. To do this, is to distance oneself, as far away as possible, so that your heart has no chance or intention of being connected to the situation. This, my friends, is dishonor. To do this, again, devalues the life, and the emotions of the community of people who have been so systemically hurt by slavery and social class distinction, that it never honors anyone. Honor must carry us.
I keep thinking of all the black people, and black mom’s specifically, out there in the world, and I can’t help but be amazed at the strength and hope they carry. I truly cannot imagine having to endure a cycle of oppression, racism, and even witnessing the death of your children over and over again. And yet, it seems, that despite all of that, the black community continues to believe and hope for change. And that’s what amazes me the most. That’s the strongest courage I’ve ever seen. That takes a deep, spiritual strength–something you only get from being close to God, and one that comes with a cost, and I’m continually amazed.
So I’m making a change in my life, will you join me?
I’m making the change starting internally. My thoughts, actions, and words should always express the love of God, and that’s the direction I’m going.
Join me in having conversations with people who have different world views than you do. This will help us all. It’ll help us engage in views we don’t always understand or agree with, and to do it in an honorable and gracious way.
Join me in reading, listening, and educating ourselves more on the systems that hold our worldviews and country’s together–and how they are not always taught in the correct historical light.
Join me in praying consistently for God’s hand to move and protect the marginalized and oppressed; for His Spirit to lead us in seeking justice; and for His love to soften and change our own individual hearts.
Join me in voting to change the systems of oppression from the inside. I will admit I haven’t taken my right to vote or engage in the civic process very seriously in my lifetime. But that changes now.
Join me in humbling our hearts to hear the cry’s of the oppressed and honestly listen to what their words and hearts are saying.
Join me in uniting to protect the ones who are outcast or victimized in your world. Both physical protection (coming to the aid of someone who is in need) and emotional protection (defending a person who cannot properly defend themselves either online or in person) are demanded right now.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I want to thank you. This is not an easy conversation. But your resiliency proves your heart for justice and mercy. So I want to provide you with a few resources I’ve discovered that have helped me out on this journey.
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby : This book was very easy to read and extremely well put together, but very hard to read from a Christian perspective because of the truth it reveals about the church and it’s compliance with slavery and racism.
Compassion (&) Conviction by Justin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler : An essential tool for the Christian living in America. It’s a guide for the believer on how to engage in the civic and political sphere, while remaining an appropriate ambassador and witness for Christ. It includes a powerful chapter on race (&) America.
Holy Post – Race in America by Phil Vischer : The creator of Veggie Tales (and voice of Bob the Tomato) explains racism in America, and why it still is an issue today.
13th by Ava Duvernay : A documentary on the United States prison system, and the underlying racism that exists both inside and outside of it today.
When They See Us by Ava Duvernay : Possibly the most disturbing and heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen. It’s dramatized for film, obviously, but the truth is there, brought into plain sight for everyone to see.
Why I Think You’re Loved by Judah Smith : An encouraging message for the Christian and non-Christian alike.
1619 Podcast by Nikole Hannah-Jones : I’ve only listened to the first episode of this series, but the history and story is eye-opening.
Racism in America–Every Square Inch Podcast by Robert Cunningham : This series is by far the most informational, rational, and clear voice I’ve heard through the current times. Pastor Robert encourages us to listen in order of the series.
Part 1 is for the Christian who acknowledges Black Lives Matter. It’s message is this: Make sure you are still following Jesus into this movement.
Part 2 is for the Christian who doesn’t acknowledge Black Lives Matter. It’s message is this: Make sure you follow Jesus as He moves into this movement.
Part 3 is for every Christian. It’s the truth of the Christian church and its compliance with slavery and racism.
In closing, a story from Jesus. Per usual, He is speaking to a large crowd, patiently displaying what love looks like. In His teaching, Jesus explains to the crowd the well-known principle, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Wanting to know who exactly this neighbor-person was so that he could stick to strictly loving them, a lawyer asks, “Well, who is my neighbor?”
And thus comes the parable of the Good Samaritan. This story describes the kindness and self-giving love a Samaritan man displayed. A man who had NO business even being around a Jewish person because of political, racial, and social class issues, and yet we find him giving up everything he has (his money, time, even the risk of his own life) to take care of and invest in this Jewish “enemy” of his.
Perhaps, through the parable, Jesus was showing us that as His followers, we don’t have permission to have enemies. In fact, it’s the opposite. We are obligated to love and to lay down of our life for the very one who might be considered our enemy.
That’s what’s going to change this world. A love for the “enemy” in each of our lives.
Father, help me see my neighbor on the side of the road, and stop to help them, every time.
Always in love,
Black Lives Matter…to God.Tweet
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