All lives matter. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I believe it because I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and as a follower of Jesus, I am obligated to believe that the Bible is completely true, and that its precepts are binding on me. And the Bible teaches it, plain and simple. I believe that lives matter before babies are born; Scripture upholds that truth, I believe. Simply put: I cannot be a faithful Christian and not believe that all lives–pre-born until the natural end of life–matter, and this because all human beings are created in the image of God.
That may sound like a funny way to begin a piece explaining why “all lives matter” is no longer a response I use. But it is necessary. Because it is on the basis of the fact that all lives matter, that black lives matter. In fact, I would challenge you, if you do not believe the Bible, with the question, “WHY? Why do you believe black lives matter?” In particular, if life is simply the product of a series of highly improbable random events, not having originated from a Creator, how can we say, with any genuine certainty, that ANY life matters? Please consider that apart from a moral Lawgiver, we cannot speak of any universally-binding moral Law; in other words, absent God, there can be no binding morality, for each man ultimately becomes a law to himself; your ethical frame of reference is ultimately arbitrary, and I have no compelling reason to agree with you. In your (correct) concern to stand for the sanctity of black lives, have you taken the time to consider WHY you believe black lives matter?
Black lives matter, because all lives matter, because the Bible says so. But I no longer respond “all lives matter”, and the reason I no longer do that is because I believe the Bible–all of the Bible–is true. Allow me to explain. Several years ago, after I had posted, “all lives matter”–meaning well, I believe, and being Biblically correct–a friend explained to me why, my good intentions notwithstanding, “all lives matter” was not only not helpful, but was, in fact, hurtful in the way it came across to those who were attempting to draw attention to the issues of race that continue to plague our nation. It was at this point that I did five really, really radical things:
I shut up.
Ultimately, I did these things because I believe that the Bible is true, worthy of being believed and lived by. Here’s are some things that my Bible teaches me:
I should always speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
This means that simply speaking the truth, with little regard for how it is perceived by others, using it as a club, absent a motive of love for other people, is disobedience to Jesus. That’s what the Bible teaches; I believe the Bible. “Speaking the truth” is an important part of what I say, but it is not the only thing that governs my words. Let’s think about this for a moment…I have always believed and taught that simply because something is true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said. And this is because of love: sometimes I refrain from saying true things because I love people. Every decent human being on earth does this, Christian or not. Let’s say you are 75 pounds overweight and smell like onions. Is it incumbent on me to remind you of this fact on a regular basis? Well, if I am your doctor, then sure; every time I see you, I should remind you that you are 75 pounds overweight, and encourage you to do something about it if you hope to live a long, happy, and healthy life. If I am your spouse, I should let you know that you smell like onions, that others might find that offensive, and that you should try to figure out how to fix it. But it isn’t my place to continually tell you, “you’re 75 pounds overweight and you stink.” You know it; the important people in your life who should be saying it likely are, and my continual harping on it by telling you the truth may well ruin our friendship…even though I told you the truth. “All lives matter” is absolutely true, but is it loving? Often, as my friend expressed to me, for all its truth, it is not seen as loving…or helpful (more on this below). Because I believe the Bible is true, I believe that saying things which are seen as unloving–when it is in my power not to–is to deny the love of Jesus that I should have toward others. I am reminded by I Corinthians 13 that if I don’t have love, nothing. Else. Matters. Nothing. Period. Full stop.
My speech should always be gracious. (Colossians 4:6)
Our words should be uplifting, helpful. What we say should add value to conversations, to reflect toward others the grace God displays toward us.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
This ancient proverb paints for us a picture of how beautiful it can be when we say just the right thing at just the right time.
Do you love people? The Bible, which I believe to be true, requires that I do so in every way I can, including with my words. I hope you agree; if so, please consider further.
Why, you may ask, does “all lives matter”, this Bible truth which we believe, come off as offensive to many people, when used as a response in the context of contemporary race relations? Is it because they deny that truth? Certainly, there are people who do not believe this truth to apply to the unborn; certainly, there are people whose belief of this truth is not based upon biblical revelation; I discussed both above. But with incredibly rare exception, every person essentially believes that “all lives matter”, at least extended to those already born. This is clearly not the reason they find “all lives matter” to be offensive; instead, the sense that I believe they feel is that “all lives matter” is a dismissive way to belittle the reality that black lives, in America, have not historically, and are not currently in practice, valued as highly as white lives. It is not of interest to me to argue this point, nor to dwell on the truth that great strides indeed have been made; the undeniable truth of these things cannot mitigate the other undeniable truth, that we have not arrived yet at the place where all lives are seen by all people as equally valuable. Skin color continues to be an impediment to equal treatment. This seems so obviously true that I need not argue the point; if you disagree–but care to know–the facts are out there. And so “all lives matter”, spoken in response to “black lives matter”, is seen as a way to dismiss the legitimate concerns of remaining inequality in our culture.
Let’s use an analogy. Suppose you lived during World War II, and became aware of the extermination of millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Suppose there began a movement called, “Jewish Lives Matter”. Would your response be, “all lives matter! German lives matter as well!”. Would it be true that German lives matter? Of course. But the need of the moment would have been to emphasize the equal humanity of Jewish people, the preciousness of their lives; it was Jews, not Germans (by and large, with exceptions) which were being marched off to Dachau. It would have been entirely valid to support a “Jewish Lives Matter” movement, and a response to that of “all lives matter”, while true, would not have been seen as helpful. Or loving. Or appropriate. For reasons that should be obvious.
My point is not to compare the plight of concentration camp Jews with contemporary African-Americans; my point rather is to illustrate that, just as “all lives matter” would not have been helpful, or loving, in response to Nazi atrocities, neither is it helpful or loving in response to “black lives matter.” Because we speak the truth, yes, but we speak it in love. Always. Without exception. If, that is, we believe the Bible, and care about being faithful to Jesus.
I do. And so when I was confronted with how my truthful-yet-loveless words came off, I changed my speech…because I believe the Bible is true.
Now to the application: first, I acknowledge that some say it honestly, simply because it’s true, and they haven’t thought through the issues. My point isn’t to castigate or to shame; I am simply asking those people to do what I did: to stop, to listen, and to re-think their words, in the light of the Bible, and its call to always speak truth in love…graciously…fitly. In the end, do you want to be known as a person who used truth as a sledgehammer? Or would you rather be known as one who, never compromising truth, nonetheless used it carefully, conditioned by love for God and people? Better to be silent than to needlessly offend by our lovelessness (James 1:19).
Others, it should be said, seem to say it stubbornly, pridefully refusing to stop and consider the totality of what the Bible teaches, or because they seem more concerned to “prove a point” than to love people. I am asking you to repent. And to change. Because if that’s your attitude in “sharing the truth”, you are wrong. Period. Another full stop. I Corinthians 13 doesn’t have a carve out for your ugly pride.
The Bible, I believe, is true from cover to cover. And because of that, while there are many, many times when it is entirely fitting to proclaim loudly and clearly that “all lives matter”, I will never again use that term in response to the plaintive cry, “black lives matter.”
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Addendum: I use the term “black lives matter”. I am now willing to say that, to use those exact words. As I type this, it is currently a part of my Facebook picture. I do so recognizing that there have attached to the movement of this name certain folks whose philosophy, beliefs, and actions I do not always agree with. I recognize, then, the potential for misunderstanding; for this reason, I have been urged to reconsider using this term. I will not, but for this reason: I would prefer to stand with my black brothers and sisters, declaring the worth and equality of their existence, even at the risk of misunderstanding. I am happy, in turn, to answer questions anyone might have about parts of the movement with which they might take issue (and with which I might, as well). My calculation I would express this way: better for all to know my basic stance for equality–and then have to patiently explain where I might differ with a particular movement–than to allow a fear for potential misunderstanding to cause me to shrink back from declaring my love for my brothers and sisters. Black lives matter!