By Stuart Epperson, Jr.
Do black lives matter? The Good Book says much more!
My heart is broken for all my black brothers and sisters. But, more importantly, so is the heart of God! Just for a moment, let’s lay aside all the politics that divide us and look at what the Good Book says about black lives.
Not only does my Bible say these dear folks “matter,” but it goes much further. The Bible says black lives are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of almighty God. It says black lives are loved and cherished by God.
Black lives are awesome!
The evil of racism is not only an evil against a group of people—it’s an outright assault on the image of God Himself! Translation…if you have a problem with black people—take it up with their creator!
I John 2:9 says it best—“Anyone who claims to be in the light, but hates his brother or sister, is still in darkness.”
This is a heart issue.
To all my white friends who may be angry and getting all political, please stop asking the question of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s time to ask the question Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbor?” This simple question was answered by the famous parable of the “Good Samaritan.” The hero in this powerful story sacrifices greatly by crossing racial, ethnic, and cultural barriers to save a dying man’s life. He models the very heart of unconditional love that Jesus taught and modeled. It was not merely a lesson in “racial tolerance” or ‘” let’s just get along.” This was about healing, action, and heart-level transformation! Jesus’s Jewish audience would have been revolted by the notion of an “unclean” foreign-minority Samaritan caring for the Jewish victim. This would have been just as revolting as the Lord caring for the Samaritan woman at the well.
Cain was driven by jealousy, envy, and hate for his brother. Jesus is the author of love and service—even to the point of washing the disciples’ feet and dying for His enemies.
The Good Book teaches that His infinite sacrifice was for the sins of all tribes and nations. The true church—His body— should be the most integrated group of people on the face of the earth!
Yet, tragically, Sunday morning, 11 a.m. is the most segregated hour in America. Change happens when we truly recognize the beauty and dignity of the savior and the stamp of His divine image on our fellow human beings, and when we embrace our differences and lay aside our prejudices, and listen and sympathize with others.
So, when the rallies stop and things settle down—how am I going to “go out of my way” to love my neighbor? How do I plan on mentoring a fatherless child—even once a week? How am I simply going to be kind? To listen?
How hard can it be to put your arm around your fellow black human being and look him or her in the eye and say: “You matter!“
How hard is it to buy lunch or coffee for someone of a different race? Go out of your way to show someone love, just like God went out of His way to show you love.
How hard is it to smile at someone different from you? Black lives don’t just matter, they are beautiful and a tremendous gift from God! They are objects of His love and precious in His sight. They are to be loved and esteemed.
Let’s end the cycle of oppression. Let’s end the pious platitudes and shallow quips. Let’s build meaningful relationships/ friendships. Let’s repent of our own prejudices and lack of concern for our neighbor.
Why isn’t it a good time to say, “All lives matter!?” Because my house is NOT on fire right now. My black friends are suffering. A large segment of our population is in a lot of pain!
The Bible also says to love and “bear one another’s burdens,” to “be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger,” to “weep with those who weep.”
One of my favorite songs puts it this way: “Do you feel their pain? Has it touched your life? Can you taste the salt in the tears they cry? Will you love them more than the hate that’s been? Will you love them back to life again?”
So many Sunday school teachers have taught us for years “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight—Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” Isn’t it time to live this out? According to the Good Book, anything short of this is sin!
Do I understand the pain of my fellow black Americans? No, I can’t even begin to imagine what they or their ancestors have suffered, but the Bible says God understands their pain….
It also compels us “not to be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is already happening in our city, Winston-Salem. The name “Salem” means peace. We are one of the only large cities that had thousands participate in peaceful rallies, with no violence. In Raleigh, police officers washed the feet of black pastors. Black and white pastors are kneeling in prayer together and swapping pulpits.
For 40 years, I’ve been playing basketball all over the US and around the world with so many black teammates that have become family. I’ve learned that when my black brothers are hurting—I’m hurting. They don’t need a bunch of sermons right now, or statistics about their community. They need friends. They need family. They need to know they are valued.
In 1988, our Winston Lake YMCA, AAU basketball team, brought home the state championship trophy. It was a huge victory! To this day, Coach Bill McClain is still one of my mentors. He was a key leader/coach of some of the first championship Winston-Salem, AAU programs, and many since. I asked Coach about the success of those teams and he said, “The power of those great teams was not based on the coaching or the individual players, but because of their ability to play as a team.” He went on to challenge me in the same way about our broader community. “Those that are called by His name have an obligation to work as a team for the greater good.”
“Team Winston,” the time is now to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s time to extol the beauty of God’s image in each other. It’s time to let this unity in diversity flourish in our city and land. Go out of your way TODAY, and don’t just tell your black neighbor they “matter,” tell them God loves them. Tell them you love them. Tell them they’re AWESOME. Then, show them they’re awesome!
God doesn’t make mistakes. Consult the Good Book. See the good in others, and act now—be the change!
A Winston-Salem native, Stu Epperson Jr. is the author of First Words of Jesus, and a radio host at 103.5FM/97.7 FM. He was one of three white players on the State Championship AAU team in 1988.