The meme above has been floating around Facebook for a few days. It's a response to the battle between "Black Lives Matters" versus the variety of other "Fill-in-the-blank Lives Matters" sentiments. My own twist from Dallas: Beyond Labels was "#HumanLivesMatter."
Labels allow us to dismiss, discount, and disrespect others. We must get beyond labels.
Yet, at the same moment, we have to understand the reality of our differences. A wise friend, Craig Lancaster, expresses that balance in this way.
"I think it not enough for us to just treat each other as we would be treated, but to strive to understand each other and where we come from and what our shaping events have been. In many cases, those labels we used to define ourselves ARE ourselves. As one of my best friends reminds me often: 'if you look at me and don't see me as a black man, you miss an awful lot of me.'"
Fully recognizing that others—those of different backgrounds, religions, nationalities, and races than us—have a different experience with life is the counterbalance to looking beyond labels.
Being Black in America carries terrible history and unique challenges. Though some have given the Black Lives Matter slogan and it's movement a bad name—which is true of every type of movement—we must not overlook the truth behind it. Black Lives Matter does not mean Black lives matter any more. It does not mean other lives matter less. Black Lives Matters highlights the reality of being Black in America. A reality we cannot ignore.
Back to the meme... Like all humor that works, the illustration above cleverly captures truth delivering the punch line with a nod and a wink. I mean, think about it, who would be so arrogant as to edit Jesus?
Oh, wait. That would be me. And you. All of us edit Jesus. The dominant feature of our humanness is the incessant desire to be self-determining. And, so often, our self-directed nature is in fact what the Bible calls a sin nature, choosing contrary to God's will.
Jesus' quote above appears to be a portion of the first Beatitude from his ethical tour de force, Sermon on the Mount. As recorded in Matthew 5:3 (italics added) it reads, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." It is not about economic poverty at all, but of humility. Humility is the foundation of personal character and the balm of interpersonal relationships. The parallel quote of Luke 6:20 does omit "in spirit," but solid, biblical hermeneutics reminds us it is the same quote with "in spirit" implied and humility as it's aim. Two great guides of hermeneutics aid us: let scripture interpret scripture; context. In this case: we see it parallel to Matthew 5:3; therefore, we don't drop the last part of the phrase from the original quote.
What do we learn? "Um, don't edit Jesus." Yes, true, above all people we should not edit Jesus. But I see a lesson here for us—the greater lesson springs from the hermeneutic lesson.
Just as we let Scripture interpret scripture and read the entirety of a passage before seeking to pronounce it's meaning, so too we must obey the entirety of God's Word not just the parts we choose.
Scripture is not a buffet. We can't choose to accept or reject it's commands based on our will. Human bias, prejudice, experience, desire and feelings do not determine God's truth. When we attempt to edit Jesus, we've created a false god of our own making; we've violated the Second Commandment.
How do this apply to _________ Lives Matter? God loves all people—red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. God commands us to love all people—beyond their labels while recognizing the reality of the differences.
Stop editing Jesus by your choices. Seek understanding. Practice the Golden Rule. Love others as Jesus does.
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