I believe that every human life can trace its ancestry all the way back to the family of Noah and his three sons. The story of each person’s heritage has the same familial beginning. That is a Biblical position which emphasizes that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). The Bible also states that the redeemed shall come “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9b).
How much does a person’s life matter who is in the BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement? It matters enough that God sent His Son to die for that person so he could be free indeed. How much does a person’s life matter who is part of a white supremacist group? It matters enough that Christ died for that person so that he could have eternal life. How much does a person’s life matter who identifies as LGBT? It matters so much that God sent His Son into the world to go to the cross and die for that person’s sins.
The divisions of our society and our world are at epidemic levels. People of the same political parties are at each other’s throats while there is open disdain for fellow-citizens of different political affiliations. The racial divide has widened. With all this there is a lot of debate about the virtues and failings of the movements and issues that have fractured our society. Read the articles on both sides of the issues and then read the comments. The vitriol, name calling, ad hominem attacks, and vile words that people use on each other is beyond civility. No amount of dialogue is going to end the divisions that are so deep. Often people who share the same basic beliefs talk right past each other in their exchanges, not even taking time to consider what the other may be saying.
There is no question that racism has divided people. There has been hatred that has incapacitated people from even being open to interacting with people of another ethnicity. Where does this come from? I suggest that is from the one “who cometh not but for to steal and to kill and to destroy” (John 10:10a). There is a kind of pride that carries with it an inner feeling of superiority. When that is challenged by something different, instead of appreciating the difference, pride creates tension. “Only by pride cometh contention” said the sage from ancient times. It doesn’t matter what the issue, when it devolves into “strife in your hearts” it is “earthly, sensual, devilish” (see James 3:14,15).
My father grew up in a home where there was a special antipathy for a certain group. When he went into the university environment, he so belittled a young man named Tom who was of that background that the young man left in tears. But something happened to my father that changed his whole attitude and his heart. He realized that he was a sinner, lost and undone. He had no hope of eternal life without Jesus. But then he found Jesus as his savior. The same redemption that is available to all men everywhere set him free. When Christ set him free from sin, He also set him free from his intense prejudice. The Lord would not let him rest until he looked up Tom and apologized.
The price of redemption is exactly the same for every person that is on the earth. It is no higher for one class or another. It is not different for one race or another. It is not more expensive for one nation and less for another. It is the same price. Christ died for our sins. Which should make us all humble. No one should consider himself better than another.
Yet, we too often do. Prejudice has reared its head in jokes or snide remarks that put down those of different backgrounds or races. Mother’s advice that “if it isn’t funny for everyone then it is not funny” is appropriate. It is appropriate even if the one who would be offended is not present. Perhaps it is especially appropriate if the offended is not present. It is when we are with those with whom we are comfortable that we tend to allow our feelings of superiority to show.
At the heart of the contentiousness that has so divided our society is pride. The first of the seven abominations in Proverbs is pride which shows us how much God hates it. If America really wants God to shed His grace on it, then its citizens must abandon pride. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble” (James 4:6). There is a reason that the first action of a people who want their land healed is that they humble themselves. Without humility there is pride and that breeds contention. Instead of bringing God’s healing, pride earns God’s resistance.
In 1630, John Winthrop had a vision for America as “A City on a Hill.” He recognized that the nation could easily be destroyed. Following are a few of his remarks, (with modernized spelling and punctuation) that we would do well to revisit:
“Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck and to provide for our posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must knit together in this work as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality. We must delight in each other.”
Winthrop’s vision of America as a shining beacon for the world to see was founded on the Biblical view of humility as well as virtues which spring from that ground. If the nation abandoned these virtues, he warned that there would be shipwreck, and it would become a byword of the world instead of a blessing.
If America is to be healed of its divisions, the church must lead the way. The promise for healing of the land rests on God’s people. We who name the name of Christ must lead in humbling ourselves. We must confess and forsake our own sins of pride. Where we have allowed racist feelings, we must repent. Where we have fueled divisions over color or nationality, we must humble ourselves and seek forgiveness. Where we have been insensitive to the feelings of those whom we have wounded, we must seek reconciliation and healing.
Human lives matter because they are creations of God and have intrinsic worth. More than that, they have been bought with the price of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. How can we bless God, and with the same tongue curse men “which are made after the similitude of God?” (James 3:9). It cannot continue without major trouble in our nation.
As Christians, let us begin with ourselves. Close down the inflammatory rhetoric. Stop the name calling. We have nothing to boast in save Christ and Him crucified. He has redeemed us, and His redemption is for “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Our attitude should not be one of superiority, but as one has said, more like one beggar showing another where to find bread.