I first wrote this blog post two years ago in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, but in the midst of church turmoil, I never published it. Nevertheless, since the heat around me has died down, and since I don’t think Christians should stop thinking about these things, I’m bringing this one out of the draft bin and finally publishing it.
… a uniquely Christian slogan for troubling times …
The Trouble with Slogans
For years now, our society has been inundated with three competing slogans:
- Black Lives Matter
- All Lives Matter
- Blue Lives Matter
Each slogan describes a different philosophy, and in many respects, they are each Christian but in many other respects they are each flawed.
I’d like to spend a few posts thinking about the significance of each of these slogans, but before I do that, I’d like to recommend a new slogan for our times… a slogan that I think is uniquely biblical:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
However, that slogan is too easily pushed aside into the realm of impractical platitudes. It’s a slogan that Christians hold and think they are keeping because they have some sort of internal “spiritual” affinity toward another person they are actively opposing. I’ve heard it in the phrase, “I have to love you, but I don’t have to like you.”
So let me for a moment give you some of the Bible’s synonyms for this slogan:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8 NIV
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:9-10 NIV
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Galatians 5:14 NIV
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers…. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. — James 2:8-9, 12-17 NIV
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Romans 12:9-21 NIV
A More Biblical Slogan
So, in light of this, what might a more biblical, more Christlike slogan sound like?
Are you ready?
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. — John 15:13 NIV
Given all the teaching of the Bible on this topic, I think the most Christlike slogan we could embrace goes like this:
“Your life matters to me more than mine.”
Right now, our world is in the midst of unrest from a pandemic. Our nation is in the midst of unrest from a political storm rampant with deceptions and vitriol, and at the same time, our brothers and sisters with darker skin are crying out in pain and anguish at the injustice they have had to endure. For 401 years now, they have experienced systematic abuse, and they are crying out for help.
Of course, I could go on. Today, many police officers feel they are being mistreated. Farmers feel they are being mistreated. Even churches and Christians feel they are being mistreated regardless of the fact that Christianity has held an extremely privileged position in this country.
Finally, each of us is being tempted to point the finger at another group and accuse them of having a “victim” mentality. “You aren’t being mistreated, I’m the one being mistreated!” “Your experience of injustice doesn’t matter as much as my experience of injustice!”
Still, the call placed on Christians is still the same as it has ever been.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8 NIV
The love of God is so great for the entire world that the Son would sacrifice himself for us.
The only Christlike thing to say in a time like this is:
Your life matters to me more than mine.
I’ll talk about this more in a subsequent blog post, but it’s important enough to say it now.
Since the emphasis is on the contrast between my life and your life, the behaviors we embrace should also emphasize the need to affirm the other person, and that’s the main reason I’m also willing and proud to say “Black Lives Matter” too.
Listen, I know there are a bunch of Christians who are opposed to the “Black Lives Matter” movement and they will tell me that because of theology problems with the movement I shouldn’t even say the phrase, but let’s be frank, I’m not following BLM theology or philosophy as my authority. I’m merely saying that I want to live in a world where the balance of power shifts toward equity and justice for my Black and Brown brothers and sisters. I’m stating that I’m further willing to make personal sacrifices to affirm that for too long Black lives have not mattered enough and it’s time to change that. More than that, I want to communicate to my Black brothers and sisters that I’m willing to put my own interests down so I can lift their interests up.
These days, I have the opportunity to address their social injustice.
Will I say, “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter?” Yes! or maybe, depending on the context. I have relatives and friends who are good cops, and I deeply desire their safety. But I also know that those other slogans carry as much baggage for some as “Black Lives Matter” carries for others. Therefore, my guiding principle is that I will not use any slogan at all if it implies that I’m trying to defend my own rights or downplay another’s experience of injustice.
Over the next few posts, I’ll share my own reflections on the slogans that are out there, but I pray that God will help me and my Christian brothers and sisters to have the same attitude as Christ regarding these matters.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… — Philippians 2:3-5 NIV