Last week at the invitation of Interfaith Ministries of Houston, I attended the march in Houston in memory of George Floyd and protesting against racial violence.
Some of you have expressed questions about why I made that choice and I wanted to take a moment to talk about it.
First, I think that the act of living out the Gospel is inherently political – not partisan, but political. I invite you to read more of my thoughts on that here.
But then there is the question – the more important question for some of you, I suspect. Does Pastor support Black Lives Matter?
So let’s spend a moment on that.
Gospel Preference for the Hurting
There are a lot of religious people in the Gospels. Faithful clergy serving in the temple. Biblical scholars and leaders of the local synagogues.
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus is found standing apart from them. Instead, Jesus chooses to stand with the people who have long been rejected by the religious institutions and leaders.
What a ridiculous story! How is that even remotely fair to the 99 sheep who have stayed where they are supposed to? Does that mean that the shepherd does not care about the 99?
No, it means that the 1 sheep, the lost sheep, needs the shepherd the most right now. And so that’s where the shepherd goes.
As a pastor, I have learned that I do not treat the members of my church equally. It’s not fair. Some members get more attention than others.
When a member has a death in their family, they get almost all of my attention. Other things get pushed to the side so that I can take care of them in their grief. The other families in the church are important to me, but this family needs my attention more right now.
When a member has a marital crisis, or a health emergency, or a struggle with a child, they are going to get more of my time and attention than all of my other members. Not because I love them more, but because in that moment they need it more.
The Gospel, and the love that the Gospel calls us to, has a preference for those who are hurting.
It’s About People
Yes, when I hear “black lives matter” I think of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland.
But that’s secondary for me.
First I think of M and D and A and M who are elementary students that I love. And I think of A and C who are quickly becoming phenomenal young men. And I think of O and C who are amazing fathers and successful in their careers, and who have faced challenges that I can’t even imagine.
I think of those students and their parents. How if the news is on, they often see people who look like them killed without any consequences. How their parents have to teach them that there are, unfortunately, people in this country who hate them because of how they look. How they are statistically more likely to deal with violence in their lives than any other members of my congregation. I think of the heartbreak they are experiencing.
There are people whom I love who are deeply hurting, and my heart breaks with and for them.
I say black lives matter not because it is a partisan statement, not because it aligns with this or that political party.
I say black lives matter because of the people whom I love that are included in that statement.
Hurting people, for whom I have a pastoral responsibility.
But What About
But what about police officers?
I also think of my beloved friend who works for Houston PD, and I pray for his family every day. I pray that he will make it safely home to his family, and also that he will carry out his legal duty and vocation in ways that reflect the faith I know he has in his heart. It is possible for us to hold onto both things at once.
But what about all the other people who have it hard?
Yes, all lives matter. The intent has never been to say that only black lives matter.
But right now, that is the community that is grieving. That is the community that is hurting. That is the community that is suffering. And the Gospel has a preference for those who are hurting.
So, yes. Black lives matter.
In this season when the black community is hurting. In this country where we have inherited the history we have. In this moment when our neighbors are weeping, we weep with them.
Saint Paul says that the church is one body. If one part suffers, we all suffer. If one part hurts, we all hurt.
Black lives matter.
Some of you have been saying that black lives matter for quite some time. Thank you for leading the way. I have learned a great deal by listening to your stories.
But for some of you, the phrase black lives matter means something else to you. It makes you bristle.
My door is open. Let’s talk.
I believe that the community of faith is exactly where we should be having conversations about these important things. Here, where we remember that we love one another deeply. Here, where we remember the Good News that has been proclaimed to us all. Here, where we have promised to care for one another and pray for one another. This is exactly where these conversations belong.