What lives matter?
I spent a few years with a project in Uganda, and made good friends with Gertrude, her daughter, a son, and many others who lived in a little village in near the Western mountains. I served them, helped where I could, got a few things they needed, taught, and shared. I ate in their homes. When Gertrude came to the US, she ate and slept at my home. When she was with me she also had opportunity to share with my Chinese friends and a Baptist church that was predominantly black. Which lives mattered most among all of these?
During the same period of time I was helping a Chinese church. Rarely was anyone present who was not Chinese. I spent time in their homes, worked with their children, and loved them as I did my Ugandan friends. They spent time in my home where we made dumplings, learned the Word, looked at the stars, and had picnics together. Did their lives matter more than the Ugandans or the Ugandans matter more than theirs?
In Haiti I met and worked with people several years ago. I remember being on the top of a church with a telescope and talking with Haitian after Haitian about the created heavens. Even then the country was mostly in poverty, but I still remember their faces, smiles, and interest. The team I went with was multi-cultural and the many Haitians have multi-cultural heritage. Did any one of our lives and theirs have more value than another?
Faylene and I spend a lot of time in the Philippines, where we have children of the heart and many staff friends in a Philippine ministry that we serve. Are they less or more important than a Haitian, a Ugandan, a US white skinned person, or a Hispanic friend? I often see the children arms wrap around Faylene. Sometimes they are darker, some lighter, some with straight hair, and some with kinky hair, but it seems they are the same — all human children. We worshipped with a Philippine group this morning via Facebook Messenger for a couple hours and then talked with several of those who are close to us. Which of their lives matters more or less compared to those of our West Virginia friends that live in the Appalachians?
Now, there is another factor for comparison among lives, if one can be made (it cannot). Each group has some history of being marred by hurtful things. The Chinese have parents that never survived the purges of the last century. Some have friends that are now having a very hard time, especially if they are Christian. The Haitians have a whole set of woes that goes back decades. The Ugandans lost nearly a generation of people due to 30 years of some of the worst dictatorships of the time. My California friends (some Hispanic, some mixed) have had real difficulties in previous generations in some locations. Some of the work and living environments for the Chinese, Hispanics, and my Native American friends that were in various parts of the US in the past two centuries read like a horror stories. Which heritage makes them or their children better or worse? Do their individual lives matter any more or less than others because of sufferings through history? If we make any distinctions based on such things, do they hinder conversations, damage our relationships, or halt the flow of love that we, who claim to be Christians, have for each other? Which lives matter most?
There was a very old lady whom I knew. She was black and also claimed to be 1/3 Native American. I loved her. She was dirt poor. My late wife and I invited her to come to our home for Thanksgiving. I went to pick her up in her very humble, falling-apart home. She dressed her best, and it was the most unusual outfit I have ever seen. It did not matter. We had a wonderful day before I took her home. Today, there is an older lady in the Philippines who is close to us. She cannot speak much English, but I greet her, hug her, and live within meters of her room. She barely gets around. Which of these ladies is more important in view of their ethnicity and culture?
Which little child among our grandchildren or children of the heart, who have a variety of skin colors and heritages, has more value than another? On what basis does “love one another” make one more precious than another? If they get older around us, does that change?
There is, of course, an issue of sin and righteousness that affects behavior, but one would be hard pressed to say one life has value over another because of a level of sin. Why? Christ died for the unrighteous. I think it says that “God so loved the world” in one famous verse. It does not mean one loves the sin in a person, but it sure points to God’s intention that the message of His love and forgiveness of sin is available to anyone that would dare to turn to Him. So, can any person be justified in valuing one life over another in the face of God’s scrutiny? I note that sin and our propensity for it has no trouble jumping boundaries of color, ethnic background, geographic location, or a bad or good history, or a bad or good day. Nor does sin respect wealth or whether one is a politician or a sheep herder. It also seems the poverty stricken man or the rich man or any kind of person can sin. Greed, sexual immorality, lack of forgiveness, and rebellion or lawlessness seem to spring up everywhere. Which sinner, then, has more value to God than another on the basis of how we sin? So, it seems consistent Biblically that we do very badly, and all individual lives need Jesus. And, if we do “have” Him, we need more of Him. There is not much room under this biblical view for one life to matter over another.
So, how does a believer deal with the drama and commotion in the world today? Love each one, which usually involves word and deed. If we are believers, regardless of how we look or where we come from, encourage and exhort. Assist where you can if there are needs or wrongdoing within your sphere of influence. That means meaningful contact to help and to speak of Jesus’ mighty purpose to save us from our sins is appropriate. But be careful not to value one life over another. That misses the point.