Nearly every year in the past on the day marking the celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I have shared a quote of some kind, but if I’m being honest, most of those times, I’ve never taken time to reflect or pray to God about how I should change myself, how I should advocate, how I should learn and value the experiences of others, or how I should amplify the voices of those still calling for the justice that Dr. King preached.
I’ve thought about what I should say today, and throughout the day so far, no words I’ve considered have seemed to be adequate. I’m not sure if these are either. And words that we say should not only be said today but also lived out every other day of the year. Let me start by saying that BLACK LIVES MATTER. Not only do they matter, but they are loved, they are valuable, and they are created in the image of God, a God who loves them, sees them, and hears them. All lives cannot matter until we recognize, work to ensure, and make it a reality that Black lives matter.
I don’t have all the answers on how we make this a reality, and as a white man who has never faced racial discrimination, I will never fully understand the pain and the struggles that so many BIPOC and other marginalized communities face. But what I can do is listen to and learn from those who have endured racism. I must continually pray that I am not a stumbling block to change but an advocate for it.
Trayvon Martin. Botham Jean. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Philando Castille. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Elijah McClain. Javier Ambler. Their lives among so many others mattered. And we must not forget the names of Black women who have been killed. Sandra Bland. Atatiana Jefferson. Breonna Taylor, and countless others. All of their lives mattered.
As we say their names, we must raise our voices in pursuit of a society that values all people just as Jesus Christ values all people. This doesn’t include just police and criminal justice reform, but also education, housing, healthcare, voting rights, and so much more. And we must have these conversations. We must not belittle and degrade the experiences and frustrations of those who feel as though an entire system is stacked against them. Listen to them. Listen to their voices. And choose to walk alongside them in their journey.
For me this is what it means to follow Christ. To follow Christ entails learning from others and amplifying the voices of those who are often not being listened to. Isaiah 1:17 teaches us this: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (NRSV).
We must also heed the words of Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV).
Advocating on behalf of others is an essential part of who I am as a believer in Christ Jesus and as someone in ministry desiring to proclaim the blessed name of Jesus every chance I get. I believe in loving others, because that is what we are called to do. To love others.
In Luke 10, Jesus tells the parable of a Samaritan who cared for a neighbor in need, a neighbor who was different than him. Jesus highlighted the Samaritan as an example for us to emulate. Jesus also showed us in Luke 20-21 that he cared for a widow who was being mistreated. He calls on us to care for widows and orphans, to care for the oppressed.
God calls us to a life of love and justice. While we pray for a revival of our hearts, while we pray for spiritual awakenings, let us also pursue justice. God hears the cries of those hurting, those who are in pain, and those who mourn. I pray that God continually breaks my heart regarding the injustices of this world. I don’t want to become numb to injustice.
God, open my eyes to the sufferings of others. Show me how to love others as you have called me to do. Lead me to help others who are hurting. Lead me to care for others, to listen to the experiences of others, to stand up for others. Lead me to love like Jesus. And as Dr. King loved to quote, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24 NRSV).
This is my prayer. Black lives matter to God. They should matter to us too.