“Black Lives Do Matter!”
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26
A. Kent Hughes tells a story about John Reed, a man who drove a school bus in Australia.
1. The bus carried both whites and aborigines and the boys on the bus were constantly fussing and fighting about their racial differences.
2. Finally, John had heard all the bickering he could stand between the boys.
3. He stopped the bus on the side of the road and said to the white boys, “What color are you?” The boys answered, “White.”
a. John said, “No, you are green. All the boys who ride on this bus are green. Now, what color are you?” The white boys answered, “Green.”
4. Then John spoke to the aborigines and said, “What color are you?” “Black,” they said.
a. “No, you are green. All the boys who ride on this bus are green. Now, what color are you?” The aborigines answered, “Green.”
5. That seemed to bring an end to the bickering and fussing — for a while.
6. Several miles down the road, one of the boys said to the others, “All right, light green on this side of the bus, dark green on that side.” Then the fussing started all over again. (borrowed from David Sargent’s sermon “I Wish All People were Green” [(Kent Hughes in Peterman 1]).
B. Do you wish that all people were green?
1. Maybe then, we would realize that we were all created by God.
2. “What color of skin did Adam & Eve have?” some may ask.
3. Can we confidently answer: Adam and Eve were some shade of brown – like the rest of us!?
4. We all have different shades of brown as the color of our skin – some are really light brown, and others are really dark brown.
C. What made Adam and Eve God’s special creation was not the color of their skin; it was something far more significant - they were made in God’s image.
1. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
3. All humans are descendants from that original couple and are all equally made in God’s image.
4. But in spite of the fact that all humans are equally made in God’s image, all humans have not been treated equally with regard to love and justice.
5. Sadly, that has not been a problem only here in the United States of America, it has been a problem throughout history in all parts of the world.
D. But we are not living in other times and places, we are here in the U.S.A. in June of 2020, and the battle for justice continues and has come to the forefront of our consciousness yet again.
1. I have been on vacation for the last two weeks, and during that time in the wake of the wrongful death of George Floyd in the custody of 4 Minneapolis police officers, there have been nationwide and worldwide protests.
2. Internationally, protesters in over 60 countries have rallied opposition to worldwide racism and police brutality, and expressed solidarity with their counterparts in the United States.
E. For two weeks, this sermon has been marinating inside of me, and today I feel compelled to try to bring some important truth from God and His word to our church family about the racial divide and social injustices occurring in our nation.
1. I devoted a sermon to this subject on the day before Martin Luther King Day two years ago.
2. In that lesson, I tried to help us understand how we all have hidden biases, and how we have to work to try to see things from other people’s perspectives.
3. In that sermon, I humbly asked for forgiveness if I offend anyone with my insensitivities or misunderstandings.
F. Today, I also, ask for your forgiveness in advance, because I may not say things just right.
1. Please don’t jump to conclusions. Please give me the benefit of the doubt.
2. Please know that my intention is to help us all grow and reflect the mind and heart of God.
3. Please know that I am speaking about moral and ethical issues, and I don’t want to be seen as being political at all, because this is not about politics it is about righteousness.
G. I admit to you that I don’t know it all. I don’t have all the answers.
1. The issues facing our nation and its people are complicated, and there are no simple fixes.
2. I recognize that I am an older, white, American man, which means I have to work hard to understand what it might be like to be someone other than me – I have to work to understand a person who is different in age, education, gender, race or nationality.
3. I have been trying to listen to and understand others.
4. I watched a helpful discussion on a YouTube channel called Digital Bible Study put together by a couple of brothers from churches of Christ, Eric Owens and Jonathan Jenkins – one is a black brother and the other is white.
a. They have done a three part series called “He is Our Peace – A discussion of Race in the Church and our Nation.”
b. Joining them in the series were two other Christian brothers, Melvin Otey and Wayne Jones – one black and the other white.
5. I have also been watching Emmanuel Acho’s videos “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” He has released one a week for the past three weeks.
6. And I’m listening to books and reading articles – I really want to understand.
H. Meanwhile, when I read and study my Bible, I see very clearly that our God of love is very concerned about justice for all and especially for the oppressed.
1. Dt. 10:17-18: 17 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving him food and clothing.
2. Deuteronomy 16:19: Do not deny justice or show partiality to anyone.
3. Ps. 82:3-4: Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked.
4. Proverbs 31:8-9: Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.
5. Hosea 12:6: But you must return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God.
6. Psalm 146:8: The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous.
7. Amos 5:24: But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.
8. I have shared with you only 7 references in the Bible having to do with justice out of over 150!
9. I am praying that the Lord will open my blind eyes, that the Lord will help me to defend the cause of the oppressed and needy, and to speak up for those who have no voice.
10. I want to be part of making sure that justice flows like a river.
I. So, where do we begin? I think it is best to begin by asking God to help us see and understand.
1. Having the right perspective, and understanding everything in the proper context, is necessary, but is hard to do.
2. At the beginning of the presentation I watched from the Digital Bible Study, our black brother named Eric Owens began by stating: “We need to understand that multiple things can be true at the same time…we need to be able to hold multiple truths in our minds at once and try to make sense of them all…for instance…America is a great place to live…America has made strides in race relations…You personally may not be a racist…and there still is systemic racism in America…all these things can be and are true at the same time.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koUtu2q9w2c&t=3604s)
3. America is a great place to live in many ways, but it isn’t a perfect place, and it is better for some than for others.
4. America has made strides in race relations, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a long way to go before things are truly just and right.
a. If a man who had been beating his wife every day for years, dials it back and only beats her once a week, that is certainly progress, but should she be satisfied with that progress?
5. You personally may not be a racist, but some are, and others have biases they are blind to.
6. There still is systemic racism, even though many laws have been passed to get rid of racism and oppression, there still needs to be changes in police practices, educational opportunities, adequate housing for minorities across our country, and so much more.
J. We all need perspective and understanding – we need to be able to hear and understand each other.
1. We need to avoid extremes and we need to avoid painting everything with too broad a brush.
2. I really like this poster made by 18 year old Keyra Horst-Moore from the Chicago area.
3. Her poster says: “Not all blacks are criminals. Not all whites are racists. Not all cops are bad. Ignorance comes in all colors.” (https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-davich-black-lives-matter-protest-lowell-teenager-st-0607-20200605-objmpshvh5hmbjvfij352x2xqy-story.html)
4. I will have more to say about her story at the end of the sermon.
5. We must avoid all ignorance! We need God’s wisdom, God’s love and God’s understanding.
K. The Bible tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
1. The Bible also tells us: “Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (I Cor. 12:24-26).
2. Brothers and sisters, there is a part of the body of Christ that is suffering and is weeping, and the whole body must weep and suffer with that part of the body.
3. The part of the body of Christ that is suffering and weeping is our black brothers and sisters.
L. Allow me to introduce to you a brother in Christ named Dr. James L. Nesmith, Jr.
1. Dr. Nesmith serves as minister for the West Broad Church of Christ, in Richmond, VA.
2. Dr. Nesmith has been preaching the Gospel for more than 30 years.
3. He and his wife, Seline, have four wonderful adult children. (https://www.wbchurchofchrist.org/our-minister)
4. On June 12, 2020, Dr. Nesmith posted this poem he wrote, titled “Why I Cry”: (https://www.facebook.com/james.nesmith.18)
I cry because this great nation, In which I was born and bred, Is the same nation where because,
Of the color of my skin, I could end up detained and dead,
I cry because the agony of my suffering, That runs more than 400 years deep, Is dismissed by
well-intentioned white Christians, Whose privilege won’t allow them to see
I cry because when drugs ravaged my community, I was an addict and thug with criminal vices
But now that drugs are ravaging white communities, They are innocent victims of an
I cry because the Constitution, With Amendments 1-3, 1-4, and 1-5, Though written long ago
in a venerated Document, Are still not fully realized in my life, The windows of my church
building were shattered, White friends saw it and said “What a shame.” But they were
looking at glass that could be replaced, ignorant of the protesters’ pain
But I believe a new day is coming, For the God I serve does not sleep, He made a promise to
those who want justice, And I know that His promise He’ll keep
So I press on toward tomorrow, Where streams of hatred and bigotry will be dry, I’ll work in
God’s strength to make a difference, And create a land in which I will no longer cry.
5. Do you hear our brother’s pain?
6. Our brother weeps, let’s weep with him.
7. Our brother hopes for a new day and presses on toward a better tomorrow, working in God’s strength to make a difference, let’s hope and work with him toward that end.
M. One of my Facebook friends is a brother in Christ named Robert Solomon. He was student at Northeastern Christian Junior College a few years after me.
1. He went on to graduate from Lipscomb University and then got a law degree from The Ohio State University.
2. He has worked for the Ohio Attorney General, was a magistrate at Franklin County Municipal Court, and worked as an assistant United States Attorney at the Department of Justice.
3. Robert Solomon is now a Vice President in the office of inclusion diversity and equal opportunity at Case Western Reserve University.
4. A few days ago, Brother Solomon wrote these words in an open letter to the students and faculty at Case Western: “As an African American man and father of a 24-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter, the recent tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Atatianna Jefferson and George Floyd have caused me great anguish. However, I did not need these and countless other horrific incidents of racist violence to know that racism is alive and well in America. I have been racially profiled myself, as well as most members of my family, countless friends, colleagues and former students. It is an unacceptable weight that we of black and brown skin have learned to live with. Nearly all of us can recall getting “the talk” from our parents and elders, guiding us on how to interact with the police to preserve our lives. Moreover, we have given “the talk” to our own children, knowing that still it is not a guarantee that your children will return home safely.
However, we must also understand that the scourge of racism is not only advanced by cruel acts of violence through police brutality, lynching and murder; it is also advanced by structural racism which has produced health disparities, economic disparities and achievement gaps. There are myriad American systems in place that continue to produce inequitable results. It is also advanced by white supremacist ideologies which decry and chide notions of social justice, equity, diversity and equality. It is advanced by those who promote the status quo and those who glorify the good old days when separate was never equal and Jim Crow laws ruled the land. It is in this context that America has erupted like a volcano which has reached its boiling point.
Now we are all asking ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” To move forward, we must also acknowledge that while the death of George Floyd was the catalyst for our current protests, it is only the tip of the iceberg. All of the decades of pain, frustration, anger, sadness and hopelessness have come to a head. We have been in this cycle time and time again and have experienced no sustained appreciable change. America is tired of pretty words and empty promises. America is demanding action.
Despite my anguish, I believe there is hope. I believe this is a watershed moment in our history. As Frederick Douglass once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will…if there is no struggle, there is no progress.” I believe our current struggles can produce progress, but we must move beyond words. We must continue to bring pressure to bear on every facet of America to produce the progress we demand. The protests we see are born out of centuries of pain and oppression, both experienced and witnessed. Black and Brown are not the only victims of the scourge of racism. All of America has been victimized and it will require all of us to find solutions. It will require all of us to ensure that sustained change and progress truly happens.” (https://www.facebook.com/robert.solomon.1694)
5. These are painful and insightful words from a suffering member of the body of Christ.
N. I titled today’s sermon “Black Lives Do Matter.”
1. I struggled with using that title because I knew that some would be put off by that title.
2. I don’t use that title to imply that I have joined the “Black Lives Matter” organization, because there are some aspects of that movement that I cannot embrace.
3. But I chose that sermon title on purpose to make the point that black lives do matter.
4. When a people in our society begin to wonder if they matter, Jesus says a resounding “Yes! You matter! I came that you might have abundant and eternal life.”
5. To the black people in our church, community, and everywhere, I want you to know that I love you and we love you – we support you, stand with you, hurt with you, and we hope with you.
6. Unfortunately, because the “Black Lives Matter” organization and movement can be so extreme and polarizing, the critical point can get lost – black lives do matter!
7. I love the message on this poster held by a precious young lady: We said – black lives matter; never said – only black lives matter; we know – all lives matter; we just need your help with #blacklivesmatter for black lives are in danger.
8. In a letter to the editor, L-Mani Viney wrote: To the editor: In response to the letter stating “all lives matter.” To be clear: the Black Lives Matter movement is not saying that all lives don’t matter. What it is saying is that if we care about all lives, we need to start caring more about Black lives. Donnovan Bennett of SportsNet says, “Imagine if you were at a gala raising money, awareness, and having a conversation about breast cancer, and then suddenly, a bunch of people stormed the banquet hall and started chanting all cancers matter. Talking about breast cancer doesn’t take away from the legitimate concern about other cancers. Or imagine if while ‘Boston Strong’ was trending after the Boston marathon bombings in 2013, a bunch of people started tweeting that ‘all cities are strong.’ ” (http://thelocalne.ws/2020/06/11/letter-all-lives-wont-matter-until-black-lives-matter-too/)
O. I saw this cartoon and it helped me understand that while we all know that all lives matter, it is helpful at times to focus on one segment or group of lives.
1. A white man named Jared Price wrote: “If you are a Christian, and can't hear #BlackLivesMatter without feeling the need to respond with a criticism that “All Lives Matter,” then crack open your Bible and hit up Luke 15. Don’t have it handy? Let me summarize. There are 100 sheep, but one goes missing. Jesus leaves the 99 and goes after the one. The 99 say: ‘But... what about us? Don't we matter?’ Of course the 99 still matter, but they’re not the ones in danger. The one is. I’ll say it again, #BlackLivesMatter.”
2. Author Kia Nilsen wrote: “I used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ in a social media post earlier this week. As happens each time I use the phrase, someone asks, ‘Why not just say “all lives matter?”’ Here is my quick response: When one of my four kids got hurt, it didn’t seem to make sense to say to them, ‘All my kids matter.’ In that moment, I embraced them and said, ‘You matter. Your pain matters. Your healing and return to health matters.’ That doesn’t diminish my love for my other kids. It expands my capacity to love as I live with another person’s pain. Jesus did the same thing in his ministry. He didn’t say, ‘all people matter.’ He went to those who were hurting, who’d been denied a place at the table, who had been cast out of community and said ‘You Matter.’ Samaritans matter. Women matter. Tax collectors matter. Lepers matter. Did that mean he loved other people less? By no means. His life and ministry expanded the vision and capacity of his followers to love as they broke down the religious and cultural walls that had long divided people.” (5.31.20 https://www.facebook.com/kai.nilsen.7)
3. And so, yes, all lives matter – that’s what God believes and that’s what I believe, that’s what most believe.
4. When I say “all lives matter,” I’m including the lives of the unborn, the disabled, the displaced, the incarcerated, the elderly – I have in mind everyone.
5. But at certain times, certain ones need our special attention and assistance.
P. Let’s go back to the story I mentioned earlier, and told you we would come back to later.
1. Jerry Davich wrote a story for the Chicago Tribune about Keyra Horst-Moore, 18, who co-organized a demonstration in her small Lake County town in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd while in police custody - let me share with you some of the things he included.
2. Keyra Horst-Moore stood on top of a picnic table under a park shelter to share her feelings: “I’m mixed race and sometimes I feel silenced by both sides,” she told fellow protesters that afternoon at Freedom Park in Lowell. “The human race can be so evil.”
3. She told the crowd that not all white people are racists, and not all black people are criminals. Stereotypes are keeping Americans in their own comfortable corners. “We can’t stay in our corners,” she said.
4. After Floyd’s death, Horst-Moore watched news reports of too many peaceful protests that turned violent, hateful, and destructive. Her initial feelings were anger and unrest. Then a sense of peacefulness washed over her bitter disappointment in our country.
5. Horst-Moore decided to act on her feelings rather than only voice them on social media.
6. “People think our town is racist. We have to break the stigma,” she told the reporter before dozens of protesters showed up to march from Freedom Park to Liberty Park.
7. “Lowell PD are the greatest cops,” Horst-Moore told protesters.
8. She and co-organizer, Cedric Cashetta, 20, of Lowell, did all the needed legwork to coordinate with police before the event.
9. “Not everybody has hate,” Cashetta told the crowd while standing next to Horst-Moore on the picnic table. “There’s a difference between looters and protesters.”
10. “We have to start somewhere,” Horst-Moore told the crowd before marching to Liberty Park.
11. In Lowell, which has a 95% white population, Horst-Moore did her best Thursday to gently sway public opinion through peace and positivism.
12. “I’m glad to call Lowell my home. This is a message of unity,” she told protesters.
13. Coming from a young woman whose complexion reveals her mixed race adds an additional layer of authenticity to her efforts.
14. The reporter caught up to her after the protest, and asked how she felt it went. “It went fantastic!” she replied.
15. Her Facebook page tagline offers hope to older generations such as myself and every other person who’s been tainted by bitterness or jadedness over this topic: “Everything is gonna be all right.”
Q. So what should we, Christians, do to make a difference?
1. First, Let’s keep our eyes on God and the truths of God, and point people toward faith.
a. If there is no God then all of us are just products of random chance and evolution, and there is no real value, purpose, and meaning in life, and there’s no such thing as justice.
b. But because we know there is a God and that truth comes from Him, then we know every life has value, and there is a standard of right and wrong, and that justice matters.
c. The longing for justice is a beautiful thing and is rooted in the reality that our God is a just God and that He is the only measure of true justice and righteousness.
2. Second, Keep loving because our God is love and God’s love is the answer for all the hatred and harm done in the world.
a. But even the definition of love must be rooted in God – Jesus said the most important command is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.
b. Godly love is wanting for others what God wants for them, even when that’s not what they want for themselves.
c. The apostle John gave us good instruction about love when he wrote: Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth (1 John 3:18).
3. Third, Keep on praying for God to make Himself known and transform the hearts of people.
a. Prayer is powerful because God hears and answers our prayers, and God is all powerful!
4. Fourth, Keep listening and looking for injustice and say and do something when you see it.
a. My lifelong friend and brother in Christ, Joe Hamilton, who is a black man and someone I love and respect so much – Joe gave me this answer about what I can do: “I think what is best, as a practical matter and learning opportunity, is to call it out when it occurs.”
5. Finally, Keep doing Micah 6:8: Act Justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.
a. Let’s be patient and kind with each other as we strive to be like the Good Shepherd and to love people the way He has loved us.
b. Let’s continue to make sure that the Wetzel Road church is a place where black lives matter, as much as all lives matter.
c. Let’s make sure we are a family of God where there is equal love and concern for all regardless of shades of skin, sexes, or status – this is God’s will, and God will make a way!
R. God have mercy and to God be the glory!