Antwuan Malone is black. He’s a pastor. He loves Jesus. And in an online interview this Friday he asked listeners an important question. Why has the church been so passive—so silent—during the national upheaval of recent days?
I shared the question so his voice was encouraging and stirring. In the welter of angry speeches and grief-filled marches no clear voice is speaking God’s words. We hear those who see and hate the evil expressed in this particular loss; but who only shout, “Stop it!” It’s like watching a shark approach a surfer as crowds on shore scream warnings. And a life is lost.
The problem is deeper than the tragedy of one man being suffocated. And that’s not to lessen the wrong his death represented. Yet we’ve seen this before. Too often. And social reforms aren’t enough. The evil won’t end until hearts change. No legislation can stifle cultural attitudes that once embraced human slavery. Even today we allow inconvenient infants to be sacrificed before their birth. And display hard hearts as we collectively treat the broken souls among us as so much debris to be swept away into unseen corners. The truth is that we can’t choose right and wrong as we see fit and still claim to be moral. Capricious morality condemns us all.
What, then, is “God’s voice” for today? The Bible is blunt: the world is dead in sin. Enslavement to self-love starves hearts of compassion and allows broken souls to recast good as evil and evil as good. God calls for new hearts. For the Spirit’s new birth. He alone awakens souls to real love, joy, peace, patience, righteousness and truth. And offers a capacity to speak truth in love.
Police forces that use uncalled-for-brutality remind us of an earlier day when a good man was despised and rejected. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he remained silent in his pain. He received the racial, social, and demonic abuses of his day and eventually the police spit on him and scourged him. Then they stripped him and nailed him on a tall post until he bled out.
But Jesus wasn’t a victim. He came to swallow death. He knew the slavery of all the world is to “be like God”—to choose their own version of right and wrong. To chase selfish ambitions whenever the moment offers. At one level of society to chase personal wealth without offering equity to others; and at another level, to loot stores under the cover of meaningful protests. And for others, to hold the ambition to stay aloof from obvious evils as long as personal security endures. As all, alike, ignore calls to love God and neighbors with wholehearted care. Jesus came to lead such captive souls into eternal life. He died to save sinners, not the self-righteous.
Antwuan’s talk was dignified but—now using my words—he seemed to wonder who among his Christian friends understand the hurt blacks and others of color feel in a world biased to white privilege. The question, “Do black lives matter?” isn’t simply rhetorical. If every hair on each head is counted by the Lord—whether black, blond, red, or white—do we imitate Christ if we still value some people more than others? No. Full equality in faith counts others more important than self. This is the stuff of authentic faith, and not mere Bible waving.
So what should the church be saying in these days of crisis? We begin with humility. Jesus knew his mission was to die. Not for his sins but for ours. And if we embrace his humility—the humility of leaving every personal ambition at the cross—and refuse to speak of power or of status or of self-protection, but of mercy and compassion, then we can invite others to Jesus.
What voice should we adopt? Try this: “I’m so sorry. You do matter, and my heart is with you. May I walk with you for a time? You have things to teach me, and I’m still learning. I care.”