A Pastoral Response to Black Lives Matter
We see the images on social media, on television and we hear the stories. We hear of rioting and demands for justice. Statues are toppled, people's lives are ruined, and the scope of things that people are angry about, seems to multiply exponentially.
Christians wonder 'how should we respond?'
This is a longer post because the matter requires thoughtful attention. I pray that my response glorifies God and is in accordance with His Word, and that it helps my brothers and sisters to think biblically and to pray and to act in love, and, yes, in courage.
What started, ostensibly, as a protest over the unjust death of George Floyd, has turned into a call to tear down the entire system. The government itself, statues, universities, public figures, not so public figures, politicians and schools and now, even churches are part of the overall 'system' that must be torn down, according to some.
What is the Christian response?
First, we must differentiate between peaceful protests and rioters and anarchists. Peaceful protestors have the right to express their concerns, and their concerns should be carefully evaluated and listened to so that helpful conversations and reform in areas can take place.
Rioters and anarchists are not the same as peaceful protestors. Not all protestors are rioters. Not all protestors are anarchists. What has happened, is that the latter (the rioters and anarchists) have taken over the 'conversation' between those peacefully protesting and the governing authorities and the culture itself.
Second, we must, as Christians, pray for and pursue a just and virtuous society. Believers know this, so the question arises: 'should we join in with Black Lives Matter' to bring about positive change in our culture? We feel compassion for people who experience injustice. Is joining with BLM the answer?
This leads to the third issue: exactly what does Black Lives Matter believe? What is their agenda, and can a Christian join in with Black Lives Matter (the movement) and be pleasing to the Lord? Pleasing Him and living for His glory and walking in His Truth is of paramount importance to the Christian as the Greatest Commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength."
So, can a Christian do that (love God wholeheartedly) and hold to the doctrines and beliefs of the organization, Black Lives Matter? This is the question.
The answer in short is, "no." There are biblical reasons, and I pray that you will keep reading to see what those reasons are.
Are we to hate people involved in Black Lives Matter? Absolutely not. We are to love our neighbor and we are to love our enemies (those who do not like us), and to pray for those who persecute us, so we have no wiggle room when it comes to loving people. We must love. (Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 5:33,34) and we must pray.
I can love someone and not agree with them. I can love someone while grieving over their spiritual condition. I can love someone and disagree without becoming hateful.
I want to affirm up front that injustice exists. It exists all over the world. We live in a fallen world. As Christians, we are to stand with and help those experiencing injustice and we are to have no part in doing injustice (Proverbs 24:11; Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 21:3).
Having said this, because our world is fallen, any idea that fallen mankind can engineer a utopian society is not only naive, it is dangerously naive. The heart of man is wicked and deceitful above all things (Romans 3; Jeremiah 17:9). Throughout history, all attempts at creating a 'utopian' society have resulted in a horrific, dystopian reality.
The only perfect world that will ever exist is when the Lord brings all things to that culmination when evil is ultimately and finally judged, and there is a new heaven and new earth.
Does this mean we do not pray and strive toward a more virtuous society? Absolutely not! We must! However, we must do so humbly, realizing that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). The cultural movements now are not God-centered, in fact, the movements seek to replace God with policy and new forms of government. Again, history bears witness that such movements result in greater evils, whether it the Soviet Revolution, Mao's Revolution, or Hitler's vision of building the Third Reich. To replace God with man (the government of godless man) results in unspeakable horrors.
My greatest affirmation: the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of Christ is our only Hope. This statement has always been true and it is certainly true for 2020 America. Intersectionality won't save us. The social gospel won't save us. Marxism won't save us. Anarchy won't save us. Christ alone is the answer to the human condition and our heart.
Sadly-even this statement 'offends' some professing Christians. This should not be. We either believe in and are not ashamed of the gospel or we do not believe in the gospel and are ashamed of it. The gospel is either powerful enough to transform lives and in that, structures, or it is not. I believe absolutely in the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and I also (sadly) believe, the nation is ultimately suffering from a passive, fearful, cultural Christianity that has been pervasive for generations.
We (evangelical churches) created and catered to consumers and people's wishes for comfort and affirmation-a Christianity of convenience, and now we are 'surprised' that so many 'Christians' are fearful or abandoning the ship. The salt has lost its saltiness. The light has been hidden under the bushel for so long, we should not be surprised by the decay and darkness around us. We are the problem. I affirm that.
I also want to affirm up front: black lives do matter. Absolutely. As fellow image bearers, as souls, each person has inherent dignity. All are created by God, lovingly, in the womb of the mother, and Jesus came to redeeem people from every race, tribe, ethnicity and every tongue. I can affirm that black lives absolutely matter without affirming the movement Black Lives Matter. The two statements are not synonymous.
Sadly, this statement is seen, by some as hateful in itself. This is the great danger of our time: any non conforming voice must be silenced. People must be shamed. Lives must be ruined if the full agenda of Black Lives Matter is not fully afffirmed.
Many on the left are finding this out the hard way. Recently, a group of fairly liberal writers and thinkers penned a letter in attempt to stand against the 'cancel culture.' They were immediately shamed. A few 'recanted' their statements. The point being, we now live in a time in which absolute conformity to the dogma of Black Lives Matter is necessary or there will be consequences.
Does this sound like something a Christian can willingly support?
You might ask, 'What exactly does Black Lives Matter believe? Aren't they simply trying to raise awareness of the need for reform so black Americans can have a better life?'
What has played out on the national scale is that Black Lives Matter engages in racist speech and behaviors (in the name of 'social justice'), is Marxist (and this is another entry entirely-how Marxism is absolutely contrary to Scripture), espouses anarchy and violence, intimidation, rebelliousness and destruction (all of which are contrary to the life God calls us to) and they are atheistic. There is a disconnect between the actions and attitudes of those in the movement and the 'implied mission' of BLM.
I use 'implied' because BLM desires much more than to affirm the dignity and worth of black lives. Case and point: the recent anger unleashed on those who say 'yes, black lives matter from the womb to the senior adult.' This sentiment is offensive because Black Lives Matter is pro-abortion.
Likewise, to say 'yes, black lives matter. All lives matter,' is also a 'sin.' The implied mission of BLM is not what the actual mission is.
Let's look at some of their stated beliefs (this is just a sampling, from their own website). Again, the issue is, 'can we join in with Black Lives Matter and honor God?'
*Note: I am thankful to Dr. John MacArthur for some of his insights in this section
1) Black Lives Matter is trans-gender affirming. 'We make space for trans-gender siblings. We do the work to dismantle cis gender (biological sex) and uplift trans-gender black folk, especially trans-gender black women who are disproportionally impacted by trans-gender violence.'
BLM is trans-gender affirming.
According to Deuteronomy 25, transgender behavior is an abomination to God. This does not mean we as Christians hate transgendered individuals. We are to love all people. Love does not mean that we affirm those things that God says are wrong, however. Just as we could not 'affirm' sex outside of marriage, or drunkenness or any deed of the flesh as Christians, we cannot affirm that transgenderism is pleasing to the Lord. Again, we do not hate. We love. We pray. We love enough to share the gospel, but we cannot affirm this position as Christians.
BLM rejects God's design for human sexuality.
Do we affirm violence against anyone in the transgender community? Absolutely not. Again, we pray, love, and speak the truth (the gospel). This position by BLM is contrary to God's Word and goes far beyond the scope of the implied mission of affirming the value of black lives.
2) Black Lives Matter declares themselves as 'womanists' and rejects man centered environments.
God's Word says that men are the spiritual leaders of the household. Men have a God-ordained spiritual headship in the family. That headship is not a dictatorship, it is servant leadership and God expects the man to lead and to serve as Christ leads and serves.
This statement by BLM regarding men is again, absolutely contrary to God's design.
BLM rejects God's design for family.
3) Black Lives Matter is 'queer affirming.' BLM seeks to put an end to the idea that everyone needs to be heterosexual.
Leviticus 18:22-23; Leviticus 20:13; Romans chapter 1 all state that homosexuality is against God's design for sexuality.
Again, we are not to hate homosexuals. We are to love. But in loving we do not affirm those things that the Lord specifically calls sinful.
And, once more, we see that BLM is about far more than black lives having dignity and value and worth. There is a subversive agenda that is absolutely contrary to Christianity.
4) BLM states they seek to disrupt the western nuclear family model. That 'model' would be the model in which a family is comprised of a husband/father, wife/mother, and children. This is God's design for family. It is not a 'western model.' It is a biblical model. It is a model that has been normative for most all cultures through time. BLM seeks to replace that with the 'village' model in which everyone collectively cares for one another inasmuch as one is 'comfortable' with others caring for their children.
BLM seeks to redefine God's design for family.
There are more statements on the website.
This organization is in direct opposition to God's Word. As such, as a Christian, I cannot join in with Black Lives Matter, but I will, and must, and do affirm that black lives matter, all lives matter, all souls are made in the image of God, and we must pray and work together as Christians to show the more excellent way.
Are some reforms necessary? Again, yes. But there is a difference between reforming for the betterment of all and tearing down the system. Let's go back to the original issue that BLM was supposed to be about: police and the black community. Again, space and time do not give me opportunity to give all the statistics to show that this issue is not a systemic attack against the black community, but I will give an example of a positive reform idea that doesn't lead the culture into anarchy and mob rule.
Retired and highly decorated Navy Seal, Jocko Willink, (who was later in charge of the intense tactical training of all Navy Seals on the west coast), is supportive of police and understands the complexities they face. As one who was an expert in dealing with continual high stress situations that required clear thinking and decision making in the middle of chaos, Willink noted that police officers in general are not given the training they need, which is unfair to them. His suggestions of increasing police pay, more stringent screening processes and most importantly, that 20% of an officers weekly schedule be spent going through multiple high stress training scenarios so all officers are as trained as possible, seems much more reasonable than the alternative being proposed: the complete dismantling of the police. This is an example of reform.
Such ideas should be considered.
But, to dismantle law enforcement?
This is a prescription for anarchy that wil inevitably lead to greater injustices.
God's Word states that the government (and that would include local governement and police) is given the sword so that there would be justice and order in society. Christians are to honor those in authority over us and to pray for them that we might live peaceful, quiet lives. (Romans 13:4; 1 Timothy 2:1,2). As Christians, we should be praying for our police, for our local, state and national elected officials. Police are one of the restraints God has given us so there can be peace and order.
Are there some bad police officers? Yes. Of course. Just as there are 'bad' teachers, pastors, businessmen, students, soldiers, small business owners and people in any profession, there are police officers who are bad either due to incompetence or a heart that is darkened. Are all police officers 'bad?' Of course not. Are most police officers 'bad?' Of course not.
Removing a God-given restraint against evil is not a biblical response to incidents of injustice. Reforming certain areas would be logical, but the idea of completely removing a God-ordained gift and restraint, is not Scriptural and must be rejected by Christians.
Once more, we see BLM standing in direct opposition to God's word and design.
As a follower of Jesus, I long for that day when there is no more evil and suffering. I want all lives to matter. I want black lives to matter. I want abortions to stop-the blood of 64 million babies cries out from the ground to the Most High God. I want to see captives set free from spiritual bondage. I long to see families restored and people's lives healed.
I acknowledge that evil and suffering and injustice exists. The Scriptures make this very clear. The difficulty in writing is knowing that so many professing believers have bowed the knee, pinched incense to Caesar if you will, are going along to get along, to be approved and liked by man, to avoid 'trouble,' (and that is a justifiable concern in light of the radical nature of both BLM and Antifa (another blog entry later) who seem to have developed a partnership of sorts. Many professing Christians are shrinking back, cowering in fear, or blindly following along without taking into consideration how the ideals of this current cultural movement align or do not align, with Scripture.
I cannot change the world. But, I can ask God to change me. I also want to be clear on something else: I am not perfect. I have fallen down and blown it a million ways and am thankful for God's grace. I am not preaching 'at' anyone, because I have nothing to boast in but Christ and His cross. I cannot boast in anything I've done or who I am. I am a work in progress dependent on His grace. I'm not casting stones. I pray that what is read and understood is my desire to align myself with God and His Word, to call others to do the same, with the full knowledge that apart from His grace I can do nothing of value, nothing to glorify Him.
As Christians, I believe we must fall on our knees and repent. For far too long we have 'sold' a watered down gospel, have thought we could follow Christ 'part-time' and we have been prayerless and ashamed of the gospel. Far too many of us have actually contributed to the cultural darkness by engaging in rhetoric on social media that does not honor Christ. We must ask God for mercy. And as tragic as it is to read BLM's desire to dismantle the family, or to redefine it, we Christians have already damaged the family by treating marriage just like the culture does-as a contract to be easily broken, not as a holy covenant between God and husband and wife. We must ask God to forgive us for not honoring God's design for marriage and family.
And, we must repent because we say we love Him but do not desire Him, do not treasure His Word, and want the approval of man more than that of God. We have not shown the world how to love one another either. We also have not shown and fleshed out the glorious gospel reality Paul speaks of in Galatians 3:28.
I close with this: I pray at this time that we who belong to Christ would cry out to God for mercy, first on us, His people, and that He would revive us, that we would experience biblical reform ourselves as so many professing Christian churches have drifted toward other 'gospels' that are no gospel at all, and that has dire consequences (Galatians 1:8). I pray that we would pray for awakening in our land. Our nation has had two Great Awakenings. I believe unless we experience true repentance, revival, reformation and awakening, there will be no hope.
It starts with us. It always has. We are salt and light. We are ambassadors. We are agents of reconciliation.
Do not shrink back. Stand. Shine. Speak the Truth in love. Run the race that is set before you, fixing your eyes on Jesus. Proclaim the gospel. Make disciples. Do not be ashamed.
May God have mercy on His church, and may He make His Face shine on our nation.
Grace to You,