In some circles the expression “Black lives matter” gets a pushback with the response “All lives matter.” And it’s true: All lives do matter.
The Black Lives Matter movement is designed to draw attention to the fact that, at least in the United States, people of color, particularly Black males, are inordinately treated as if their lives do not matter.
In a broader sense the movement goes beyond community-based resistance to the extrajudicial and disproportionate killing and injustices of Black people by law officials and vigilantes. It includes defending the basic rights of all oppressed and marginalized groups, such as those discriminated against because of gender, physical condition, sexual orientation, and immigrant status.
How should people respond when they biblically or morally disagree with aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, or with groups within the movement? A simple self-check is useful. At least three reactions to the movement will help them understand their own mind-set.
First, are those who oppose the movement because it is viewed as political, social activism, and is against Christian values.
Second, are those who advocate the movement because they view it as supporting the human rights of those who are oppressed.
Third, are those who totally ignore the movement because they believe it’s a distraction to the higher claims of the gospel.
What, then, is the Christian response to the Black Lives Matters movement? The direct answer: Do as Christ would do; respond with love and compassion. Jesus went around doing good for all groups (Acts 10:38); He is our example. Christ associated with, and did good, for all groups in society, including the respected and disrespected, i.e., publicans and sinners, the outcast and despised of His day (see Luke 15:1). In short, Christ viewed all people and groups in society as within the purview of His ministry (see Luke 19:10).
How can believers do good in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement? Ellen White’s comment about Christ’s method in The Ministry of Healing (p. 143) is often used in connection with urban and community outreach. Believers can wisely show love and compassion without getting entangled in politics and compromising values. To be successful with diverse groups believers should remember that Christ’s method is the key to success.
So how might Jesus contextually engage the Black Lives Matter proponents or included groups? He would mingle with them as one who desired their good. He would sympathize and minister to their needs, thereby winning their confidence. His actions would culminate in directing the attention and affections of those with whom He interacted to the highest good. Finally, He would make the appeal “Follow Me” to a life conversion that would result in temporal as well as eternal fulfillment.
What matters? The Black Lives Matter movement does. It provides a platform for concerned believers to model the ministry of Jesus.
Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.