by Patti Virkler
I confess that I am one of those people who have been offended and put off by the expression “black lives matter.” Not because I disagreed with it in any way, but because to me, it was a statement of the obvious. Of course black lives matter; all lives matter. Jesus died for all mankind. In Him, there is no Jew or Greek nor male or female nor black or white. We are all one in the family of God. It seemed to me that to emphasize the value of one group stirs up negative feelings and brings needless division. I felt like that would be more racist than anything else I have ever said or done.
Then I was reminded of Luke 15.
We all love the story of how the shepherd left the 99 and went looking for the one sheep that was lost. We are touched by the picture of Jesus carrying the wounded lamb back to the fold. It makes us feel good that, when we were that lost sheep, Jesus made it a point to come and take care of us. But have we ever stopped to think about the 99?
When the shepherd told them, “Joe is missing. I need to go out and look for him,” if the 99 were anything like me, they didn’t take the announcement well.
“What?! What about us? Why should he get all your attention? He isn’t the only one that’s important. Our lives matter too!”
But the shepherd said, “I am leaving you in an open pasture. You are safe. But right now Joe is alone, afraid and in danger. I need to focus on him right now until he is as safe as the rest of you.”
Today the Good Shepherd is reminding me that I am in an open pasture. I am safe. When I drive through an affluent part of town, I’m never followed or stopped by the police. Women don’t unconsciously clutch their purses tighter when my husband walks toward them. When my daughter goes into a high-end store, she is not immediately followed on suspicion that she is a thief. If my son is stopped for a minor traffic violation, I don’t fear he will be subjected to an invasive body search, beaten and arrested for drug possession even when no drugs are found. I live in an open pasture. I am safe.
And yes, my white friends, all of that is the everyday experience of our American, middle-class, educated, law-abiding, Christian brothers and sisters who happen to be black. If you don’t believe me, sit down with some of your black friends and ask them. Then be quiet and listen! Don’t jump in with your “But what about…?” or your story about a criminal who was violent or someone who abused affirmative action or the fact that you personally have never acted in a racist way. Just listen to your brothers and sisters. Hear their stories and their experiences. If they are really your friends, as you claim they are, you will want to know the truth about their lives. And if they are hurting, you will want to help them.
Paul reminded us in I Corinthians 12 that we are Christ’s body and individually members of it. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26). We as white Christians have not experienced the same things our black members have. But we as the Body of Christ are all suffering because of their suffering. We cannot just ignore their pain and expect the Body to be healthy any more than we could ignore the pain of a broken leg and expect to win a marathon. If we cannot bring healing and reconciliation even within our own Body, why should we expect the world to listen to anything we have to say?
People of color in America today feel alone, afraid and in danger. What is the Shepherd calling us to do? Of course, He loves us all and we all matter to Him. But today, perhaps it is time for the Church to stand up and declare that to God and to us, “black lives matter.”
- I am aware that in the parable, the lost sheep represented a sinner and the 99 were the righteous. IN NO WAY am I insinuating that only black people are sinners and white people are righteous. The Lord used the parable to remind me that those who are hurting require and deserve special care, and right now, that is the black population.
- A strong affirmation that Black Lives Matter does not require, nor should it even imply, any support for the political organization of that name, or any of the specifically unbiblical positions it espouses. But our love and support for our black brothers and sisters, and the explicit confirmation that their lives absolutely have value to us, should always be louder than our denouncements of specific aspects of an agenda which has been attached to #BLM.
Sheep on Jesus' shoulders – source unknown
All Sheep Matter drawing by Jasmine Virkler