“Black Lives Matter” is biblical and common sense

My dad was a Church of Christ preacher and my mom was a school secretary. They raised three children.

Dad and Mom brought us up to believe and practice good, old-fashioned family values and the teachings of the Bible.

I am proud of my upbringing and thankful for it. Now that I’m a dad, I’m trying to pass on the things my parents taught me.

My youngest sister, Bethy, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the digestive system and lungs. When Bethy was born in 1983, they didn’t give her much of a chance to live beyond her teen years.

Bethy needed a lot of extra health care. She needed more health care than the rest of the family put together. At least once a month, my parents drove Bethy from our small town in rural Ohio up to a big hospital in Cleveland. Every day, the had to do a lot of special in-home treatment just for her. Since my parents didn’t have health insurance, my mom started working just to cover Bethy’s medical bills.

Everything my parents did for Bethy (and the prayers they offered up to God) turned out well. Bethy turned 37 this year. She seems to be in a competition with my other sister, Michelle, to see who can live the fullest life. Michelle is a nurse practitioner (currently working with COVID patients) and Bethy is a teacher who travels to Haiti and Kenya several times a year to work with children in those countries.

Questions:

Do you think my parents were wrong to give Bethy so much special attention and care?

Do you think my parents were unfair to Michelle and me when they gave Bethy so much more attention and effort than they gave us?

Do you think that, because my parents gave Bethy so much more attention and effort, they loved her more than they loved Michelle and me?

Knowing most of my circle of family and friends, I am willing to bet you said “NO” to all three questions without missing a beat.

If you did say “no,” can you tell me why?

I imagine your answer is something like: “Because that’s what families do! They take care of each other. They do whatever it takes. They help members who are in special need.”

That’s what families do.

That’s what the church of Christ does, too.

I mentioned that Dad was a Church of Christ preacher.

Growing up, I recall hearing lessons on the “body of Christ.” Those lessons came from a letter the Christian apostle Paul wrote to a church of Christ in the ancient city of Corinth. That church had factions in it that did not get along. Two of the biggest factions in the church were poor people and rich people. In those times, the divide between poor and rich was more like a permanent caste system. Poor people were seen as deserving of their lot in life, genetically inferior to the well-bred rich (who were, it was assumed, favored by the gods because of their superior intellect and virtue).

Somehow, these two groups ended up in the same church of Christ and it wasn’t going well. So, the apostle Paul wrote them a letter to set them straight. In his letter, he wrote:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet: “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:12, 15-26).

The laws of nature are hard to ignore or refute, so Paul put them to use to make his point. “Look at your own body,” he said. “Look at how God put it together. Look at how the parts of your own body work together. Look at how you treat the parts of your own body. The same God who made your body this way is the same God who made the church, the family, society. If you want it all to work, work at it God’s way.”

And how does a family, a church, or a society work together God’s way?

By “giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

When a body–or a family, church, or society–is working the way God made it to work, some members get more special attention than others so that the body is whole. The body–or a family, church, or society–is not made whole by being made of only one part or by treating all the parts the same. It is made whole when some parts give special attention to other parts that need it more.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (verse 26).

Our family followed this principle when Bethy needed years of special care.

Growing up, I recall our church following this principle dozens or even hundreds of times when certain members went through hardships.

Another way to put it: When a part of our body suffers, we don’t amputate it because it’s bringing the rest of the body down. We do everything we can to bring that part of the body back to full health. We don’t mind giving that part special treatment because we know that the body is at its best when all of its parts are healthy and strong.

Here in the United States of America, 47.8 million people–members of our American family–have been telling us for generations that they are suffering. All of us have seen the evidence that what they are telling us is true. We know the horror of their history among us. What reason do we have to not believe them? What reason do we have to deny their suffering?

Consider these facts:

In the United States, white families have a median net worth of $170,000; the median net worth of Black families is $20,000.

In the United States, low-income white families have a median net worth of $22,900; low income black families have a median net worth of $5,000.

What accounts for the difference?

I have heard and seen fellow Christians say that Black people are poor because they are not willing to work. I have heard and seen fellow Christians say that Black people prefer to commit crime or get welfare checks. I have heard and seen fellow Christians say that Black people lack certain qualities necessary to make a good living.

I have three questions for my fellow Christians who say such things.

First, do you mean to say that nearly 50 million of your fellow Americans are just lazy? That they just don’t want to work? That they would rather complain and make excuses rather than make a living? Do you really believe that? On what facts do you base such a broad and sweeping generalization of 50 million of your fellow citizens?

Second, do you know that a greater percentage of Black Americans are Christians than white Americans? When you make broad generalizations about Black people, you are sweeping up millions of your fellow Christians in those generalizations. Those are fellow parts of the body of Christ. Do you believe that being fellow members in Christ, you owe them the benefit of the doubt when they tell you they are suffering?

Third, do you believe that just because someone has means and opportunity (as Black persons do), he or she may not also have to suffer the effects of generations of racial opposition and unjust treatment?

Bonus question: Do you believe this world is fallen? If so, do you find it so hard to believe that the sin of racism against Black people is still at work in businesses, churches, governments, police departments, and schools?

As Christians in the United States, we are members of both the American body politic and the body of Christ. If we are to follow the biblical and natural pattern we find in our own bodies, we give special attention and special treatment to the parts of our body that are suffering.

When my parents gave special attention and treatment to my sister, it wasn’t because they loved her more or because she was more deserving.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to give special attention and treatment to those members who were suffering, it wasn’t because they were more important than the rest of the church.

No, the body gives special attention and treatment to certain parts, not because they are better or more important or more loved, but because they are part of the body. To give them special attention and treatment is to give the entire body the care it needs to be healthy and strong.

To say that Black lives matter takes nothing from anyone else any more than my parents giving special attention and treatment to my sister took nothing from me. In fact, in giving my sister special attention and treatment, my parents gave me assurance that I belonged to a family that would do what it takes to take care of me if I ever need it. The extra care my parents gave my sister made the whole family stronger. I am happy to be part of that family!

And so it is with other bodies as well. Churches. Communities. A country.

Black lives matter because America matters.

Black lives matter because the church of Christ matters.

Black lives matter because “God so loved the world.

The most faithful and loving thing that Christians in America can do now for their churches, their communities, their country, and themselves is to say that Black lives matter! And then join with their Black brothers and sisters to relieve their suffering and work to build a better body and a more perfect union.

 
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