Human lives matter.
In The Age of Arms under which our country is suffering, it is time to remember this basic fact: human lives matters.
The lives of law enforcement in Dallas mattered.
The life of Alton Sterling mattered.
The life of Philando Castile mattered.
The 49 lives killed at The Pulse in Orlando mattered.
In The Age of Extreme Division under which our country is suffering, it is time to remember this basic fact: every human life matter.
Let me say one thing out loud so as to be clear: too often white people -- I am Caucasian by ethnicity -- have said "all lives matter" as a way to discount the racism and prejudice that is affecting and destroying the lives of people of other ethnicity. In The Age of Extreme Division, we overlook, sometimes dismiss, and worse, sometimes justify, the pains, injustices, hurts and losses of people from different communities, ethnicities and neighborhoods than ours. In The Age of Human Lives Matter the pain, distrust, anger, and fears of others are heard and owned. We sit with those of different color and culture in sorrow. We feel the wounds. We acknowledge the injustices. We commit to personal, spiritual and cultural transformation. We work to create culture that is known as The Age of Human Lives Matter. In that culture, lives matter; every life.
Black lives matter.
White lives matter.
Latino lives matter.
Asian lives matter.
Native American lives matter.
Christian lives matter.
Muslim lives matter.
Jewish lives matter.
Lives of those who choose no faith matter.
Homeless lives matter.
Sex trafficked lives matter.
Republican lives matter.
Democratic lives matter.
Every life on this globe matters. Every life. Period.
If we lived in an Age of Human Lives Matter, then we would grieve each and every human tragedy and loss. But now there seems no time to grieve and change our ways instead of almost instantly spewing hatred, vitriolic, and political rhetoric. Without time to grieve the loss of a life/lives of people who matter, our words, reactions and responses only pour more fuel on open flames of anger and distrust.
If we lived in an An Age of Human Lives Matter, then we would come reasonably to the table of discussion and make political and economic and civic decisions that were in the best interest of human lives, even if those decisions meant personal, economic and political sacrifice.
But we live in an Age of Arms and an Age of Extreme Division, not an Age of Human Lives Matter. So, we do not grieve. We do not make hard decisions. We do not make sacrifices. And things stay the same. Cross out that last sentence: Things get worse.
How can Christians respond?
Let me first define "Christian." By that one word, I mean a person who intends to follow both the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus. By that one word, I mean a person who is learning how to let the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus override and transform her or his political viewpoints and points of view given by status, race, net worth, biological family and any other meaningful affiliation. In other words, by "Christian" I mean a person who is learning how to do and react and speak and respond as Jesus would if in his or her exact situation.
So, how can a Christians respond? First, by taking seriously--literally-- the call to peace-making in all situations and among all people. Here are some ancient words, written by James, the half-brother of Jesus: "The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions...The wise are peace-makers." James 3:17-18.
Second, by taking seriously the biblical call to lead our culture in repentance of our sinful ways, of choosing certain lives to matter, of allowing anything but the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus to govern and guide our words, reactions, responses and values. Here are some ancient words, dating back to the times before Jesus: "...If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Third, by Christian leaders--pastors, elders, bishops, deacons, leaders in faith communities--speaking up, saying that every human life matters, that the most basic of all constitutional guarantees is the guarantee of life. White pastors -- I am one -- especially have not spoken up. It is to our shame and discredit. We have not created an environment that makes real the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus, empowering it to permeate and transform every facet and value of the people they shepherd. They have been occupied with other matters, such as building big followings and platforms of personal renown. One notable pastor of our time, Eugene Peterson, says, the only work of the pastor is "to help her or his parishioners learn how to pay attention fully -- not half heartedly -- to the presence of Living God." Living in that presence, it becomes exceedingly, abundantly clear that in the Kingdom of God, human life matters.
Fourth, by becoming a follower of the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus. Practically. Politically. Economically. Religiously. One person took on this challenge. It was said of St. Francis, who lived in the 13th century, that no person before or since has lived the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus more than St. Francis. Here is a prayer of that kind, gentle and insightful Saint that speaks loudly today: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy." Immerse yourself not in the ways of St. Francis, but like St. Francis, in the Way of Jesus and the Ways of Jesus, so that you can both pray and live this prayer in your home, in your workplace, in your church, in your community. I am more convinced than ever that this is the only real and meaningful way for this Age of Arms and this Age of Extreme Division to be transformed into the Age of Human Lives Matter.
Let me say it one more time: HUMAN LIVES MATTERS. Shout it. Whisper it. Pray it. Until the Age of Arms and the Age of Extreme Division is over and replaced genuinely, thoroughly and deeply by the Age of Human Lives Matter.