During one of the Democratic Presidential debates in 2015, the moderator asked, “Do black lives matter or all lives matter?” I wondered how I would answer that question. I would’ve wanted to answer in a way that acknowledges the unnecessary, unfair loss of black lives at the hands of law enforcement officers while still recognizing the value of every life, regardless of race or any other categorization.
Since then, I’ve wondered how Jesus might answer the question. We aren’t without clues of how Jesus would respond. The Gospels are chocked with examples of religious leaders using a question in attempt to trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against Him. But He was the master of avoiding traps and even turning the table on His cunning inquirers, trapping them with His answers.
The question still stands today. Five years later now, and because of recent unnecessary, unfair loss of black lives (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atationna Jefferson, Botham Jean, Stephon Clark) – it resonates louder than ever.
So how might Jesus answer the question? First, look at how He responded in a couple situations.
Luke 12:13-15 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” NKJV
Jesus first established that He wasn’t in the role of arbitrator; even though He would one day be the judge of every person’s soul, He didn’t come for the purpose of deciding their civil matters. “But,” one could argue, “the BLM vs. ALM question isn’t around a civil matter, but a criminal one.” And that’s, of course, true. But, in my view, Jesus would still explain that He didn’t leave His Heavenly throne and take on the form of man to settle our criminal justice matters; He came to settle, once and for all, our eternal case – the one wherein we each and all committed crimes against God and mankind and stand in need of forgiveness and being reconciled with God. So Jesus’ answer would include a clarification of His role.
Jesus also, in the above passage, addressed the deeper issue in the one asking the question. “Beware of covetousness.” The condition of the guy’s heart was more important than what he stood to gain or lose in his inheritance. If you think Jesus wasn’t confrontational, do a quick-read of the book of John (or any of the four Gospels). You’ll see that He almost constantly challenged people. There’s no doubt in my mind that He would challenge something in us as part of His response to our question. Able to know the thoughts of our heart, not just the words of our lips, Jesus would point us to that for which we are responsible, and about which we can do something. He might say something like this:
I’m not taking on the role of earthly sage or municipal judge. I’m more concerned that you hate people. You want to know what matters? Your heart matters. Out of it springs death or life. Do you stand against BLM? I’d prefer you hear them, love them, and protect them. Do you stand with BLM? Don’t allow your peaceful response to escalate into violence and harm. Are you My follower? Do you trust Me? Then love your enemies and pray for them. You have My example.
So Jesus wouldn’t condescend from His divine position to that of judge of earthly matters, and He would address the hearts on each side of the issue. But wouldn’t He show which side is the right one in such an important issue as BLM vs. ALM? Well, check out what He said when faced with one of the monumental cultural questions of His day:
Matt 22:15-22 (NLT)
Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply amazed them, and they went away.
The real question behind the stated one was, “Should we abide by God’s law or by Roman law?” Answering the question within the either-or parameters with which they posed it would have gotten Jesus in trouble, which was the very purpose for which the question was crafted. The question was an either-or one, but the answer couldn ‘t be. Either-or questions are designed to divide. Our world is full of them, and I, personally, am praying for God to give me His answers, so I can avoid the ones into which the world tries to corral me.
Jesus wouldn’t be corralled, either, into the BLM side or the ALM side. Rather, He would reveal another side, one more important than the two our question presents. He would introduce a life different from, and even more valuable than, black lives or all lives. Jesus would say something like:
“Black lives matter and all lives matter, but more than anything, eternal lives matter. Stop fighting with your fellow man and turn to Me. Believe in Me. Trust that My death gives you life that will never end. When you know you have eternal life, and your hope is to spend forever with Me in Heaven, even the most weighty issues of earth fade into relative insignificance. The time will come – and soon – when you won’t even care how you were treated in this life, although it is important how you treat others.”
Jesus’ teachings prioritized eternity over this age. See what He said about some of the most important things here compared to eternal life:
Matt 5:29-30 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Do black lives matter or all lives matter? Both. But mostly, eternal lives matter.