Do black lives matter? A provocative question, I know. But before I answer that question from my perspective, I want to draw a very important distinction. As a Christian, a Pastor, a preacher and a disciple of Christ, I need to have a response to this question and I need to follow through from that response in the way I live, preach and relate to people in this world – especially at this point in time, given all that has happened this past year. Racial discourse is once again part of the American and global conversation due to the recent killings of black people. White Christians especially find themselves trying to wrestle with how to understand, respond to and engage what many black Christians see as clear examples of racial injustice. Some Christians are asking whether they should affirm the dignity of black lives with the words ‘black lives matter’ since this phrase is now associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization and the BLM organization affirms things that are clearly contrary to Scripture and at odds with Christian belief.
Herein lies the distinction I foreshadowed above. If the question is ‘Do black lives matter?’ then, as a Christian the answer is a resounding YES. Of course they matter. All lives matter. We are all created in the image of God, regardless of the colour of our skin or our racial heritage. God’s love, grace and salvation extends to all. However, if the question is, ‘Do we, as Christians, align ourselves with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement,’ then I think we need to be much more careful in how we answer that.
I firmly believe the Bible gives us everything we need for life, eternal life and godliness. I think Christians must begin our opposition to racism with a Biblical and theological analysis of the problem and with a biblical and theological presentation of the solution to the problem. Christians must also be rigorous in their understanding of both the Bible and of our own social locations, as we use common-grace resources and common sense under the authority of Scripture to eradicate the evil of racism in the power of the Spirit. We must carefully and critically evaluate every idea in any organization in light of Scripture and under the authority of Scripture. We must reject teachings in any organization that are contrary to Scripture and work against the mission of Christ. For me, that’s all very clear.
However, the recent criticisms against Christians who affirm the scriptural truth of black dignity using the words ‘black lives matter’ demonstrates the difficulty of embracing a movement or an organisation rather than embracing a truth which may or may not lie at the foundation of that movement. There is no debate about the Bible’s affirmation that black lives are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27), and sadly, there is also no doubt that America and many other nations have a history of dehumanizing black people. The words ‘black lives matter’ certainly affirm a Scriptural truth about black people. Nobody can argue with that. God created all humans in His image. From Genesis (3:15) to Matthew’s gospel (28:16–20) to Revelation (5:9), the Bible speaks clearly about God’s vision to restore everything Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden and His vision to redeem ethnically diverse individuals from different tongues, tribes, peoples, and nations. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God makes sinners right with Himself (Rom. 5:6–10), reconciles sinners to each other (Eph. 2:11–22), and restores and reconciles the entire universe (Col. 1:19–20). The Apostle Paul calls this cosmic redemption the disarming of earthly and demonic powers (Col. 2:14–15) and the unification of all things and all people in Christ.
Racism is opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and stands against God’s vision to redeem and unify creation through Christ. God recreates through Christ a diversity of different tongues, tribes, peoples, and nations into one new (but diverse) people. God commands us to live in pursuit of reconciled community with, God first and foremost, but then with one another and with our neighbours in anticipation of the age to come (Is. 65:17–25; Rom. 8:19–22). God’s kingdom is a ‘now-but-not-yet’ kingdom, whose king is a brown-skinned middle eastern Messiah. The kingdom is filled with diverse people and diverse stories of beautiful image-bearers who’ve tasted the salvation of the one God, the one Lord, and the one Spirit by faith in Christ (Eph. 4:4–6).
As Christians, we must intentionally oppose racism because God, through Christ, both empowers us and commands us to walk in love with the power of the Spirit. One way Christians walk in the Spirit is when we love our neighbors as ourselves (Gal. 5:13–14). We should not use our freedom in Christ to pursue our sinful passions in accordance with the flesh. We must oppose racism whenever and wherever it appears because we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17-21).
As a Christian Pastor in a nation where God has gathered almost every race and ethnic group together under one national identity, I thank God that Genesis 1:26–27 clearly states God created all humans in His image and bestows upon us God-given dignity, and that He promises to redeem us, to reconcile us, and to restore the entire creation through Christ. When black lives are dehumanized and treated as though they don’t matter simply because they’re black, Christians everywhere should be able to stand up and assert without hesitation and with their Bibles open that black lives certainly matter, have dignity, worth and value, just as non-black lives certainly matter, have worth, dignity, and value.
So of course black lives matter to God and to us because the Bible teaches they matter to God and the Spirit of God within us testifies to that fact when we see any racial injustice. God created black people in His image. God redeems black lives in Christ. That must be the affirmation of every sincere Christian on our planet. How we engage with this issue; how we support our black brothers and sisters; how we stand with them without aligning ourselves to movements or groups with varied agendas and militant motives – that requires much wisdom and can be very difficult. That being the case, God would not have us hide behind that difficulty and remain hidden, silent and inactive. The Church of Jesus Christ should be shining the brightest light of all into the darkness of his tragic issue. Sadly, in many places, the Church has forgotten its primary calling to embrace the mission of Christ and has become politicised and aligned with other forces – perhaps with good intention – but nevertheless with less the outcomes have not glorified God and have achieved very little in terms of real change for the better.
We need God’s wisdom as we navigate these choppy waters and we certainly need to be praying for all those whose lives are directly impacted every day by racism and hatred.