By Pastor Mitch Kim
Why would I say, “Black lives matter,” as I did in my Sept 6, 2020 message? Exploring a passage around an ox that gores, I observed that slaves’ lives mattered as much as sons’ lives. Similarly today, Scripture would affirm that unborn as well as Black lives matter, embracing the lives of those that might be otherwise overlooked and marginalized since all humanity is created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–27).
While my message distinguished my words from the goals of any organization, some have raised concerns that “Black lives matter” implicitly endorses the organization of that name. So why would I use words that cause such concern? I have two reasons: a pastoral reason and a missional reason.
A PASTORAL REASON
The pastoral reason is for people within our church. These words are a theological statement of truth from the Scriptures spoken out of a pastoral heart for members of our own church. As I listen to my Black brothers and sisters who for centuries have been devalued by words and actions in this country, I hear that these words profoundly resonate and deeply express to them the value of their own lives. When they share their fears for themselves when out jogging or for their children playing in a friend’s neighborhood or when pulled over by the police, my heart aches. If the statement “Black lives matter” uniquely speaks love and value to such hurting hearts, then I want to minister with those words. And I want to model the power of these words for others that we might speak with compassion to our own brothers and sisters.
Could we not use other words to express the same meaning? Imagine that a wife asks her husband to say, “I love you.” The husband could object to how those words have been cheapened by overuse and instead say, “I will be loyal to you.” The husband could say that his wife should find her identity and affirmation in the love of God and say, “I love you as Jesus loves you.” Yet wise husbands know better. Such alternative wording would fail to communicate to and resonate with the heart of the wife’s request.
Similarly, the pastoral reason for using these words is that I desire to use the words that resonate with the hearts of people whom I love and respect and express God’s love toward them.
A MISSIONAL REASON
The missional concern is that the church must speak to the truth that Black lives matter. As a church, we always seek to connect the unchanging truths of God’s Word to the changing questions of our world. As I look at how the apostles did that work of contextualization, they used even pagan and idolatrous sources as a bridge to proclaim the glorious riches of Jesus Christ (Acts 17:23, 28–29). Throughout history, Christians have contextualized, adopted and reinterpreted pagan symbols and words. Gregory the Great told a missionary to Britain to transform pagan temples into houses of worship for the believers. Martin Luther adapted German bar tunes and set them to music as hymns. In each generation, we are called to translate the glory of Jesus Christ to the questions of our generation and culture. Today, we must contextualize the glory of Christ into the truth that Black lives matter.
These words express a truth that is sadly neglected in our world and even the church today. I believe that the church can reclaim the truth of this, affirming the truth that Black lives matter since they are created in the image of God and have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. And as we affirm this truth, we can use it as a bridge to proclaim the reconciling and healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Protests today reflect a cry for justice in our nation. Sadly, the church has often failed to engage this question and has even been complicit at times in propagating racism in our nation. I see too many young people leaving the church because they feel that the church is not addressing the questions that they are asking. We must seek God’s heart for the oppressed and marginalized and bring a biblical perspective to their questions.