I used to say, “All Lives Matter.” Lately, I have seen posts and articles using pieces of Jesus’ teaching, and even images of His crucifixion, to support that statement. However, I have conducted my own study.
Most often when Jesus helped people, he ministered to the marginalized: the woman at the well, the four thousand fed, Zacchaeus, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. All of them were in the margins of the community with no way out.
Notably, the Rich Young Ruler did NOT receive ministry. Why? His (unmarginalized) status in the community was too important to him, and he could not bring himself to walk away from it (Mark 10:22).
As an extension, Jesus MET people where they were in their marginalized life.
For the woman at the well, He did not tell her that All Women’s Lives mattered. He said that HER life mattered. As a result of His ministry, she became the trumpet in her community for the Work that Jesus started in her heart (John 4:29).
It is the same with the one caught in adultery. She did not need to know that All Lives Mattered. She learned that HER life mattered. Under the current Law, she should have died for her crime. She knew her sin. The accusers knew her sin. Jesus knew her sin. But, when Jesus ministered to her, He said, “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) She was in the margins. No one cared for her. She did not matter to anyone, likely not even to herself. However, because of the Ministry and Work of Christ, she HAS mattered for over 2000 years.
For the four thousand fed, He said He did not want the people to fall faint on their way home (Mark 8:3). Our Lord made no indication that the lives of the people, who were already in town, mattered also. He showed that THEIR lives mattered because THEY were the ones at THAT moment who needed to know that they mattered.
He did not tell Zacchaeus that All Tax Collector’s Lives mattered. He said, “I must stay at YOUR house today.” (Luke 19:5, emphasis added)
Of course, the examples go on and on. The most poignant and parallel example is the story of the widow’s mites. Jesus said outright that (the equivalent of) the half cent she placed into the treasury was, “her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:44) When compared to the other offerings that were “put in out of their abundance,” (ibid) two mites did not matter. This woman was marginalized. She was poor. She had nothing. She WAS nothing. However, in His ministry and teaching, Jesus said that THIS woman’s whole life mattered.
I used to assume the premise, “All Lives Matter.” But, that was the incorrect angle for me to look at it.
There are people in today’s society for whom racism and marginalization are a constant and persistent problem. I have seen it on the streets of our cities. I have seen it in the hallways of our universities. I have even seen it affect the cabinetry of a state governor. Unfortunately, racism is alive and rampant in our country, and there are people who are being crushed to powder under its millstone. They are broken, they are hurting, and they are weary. THEY are the ones who need our ministry right now.
Of course, All Lives Matter. No one intelligently says otherwise.
But, THESE people, in THIS era of history, in THIS place, for THIS season, need to know right now, that THEIR lives matter. Jesus Himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Mark 2:17)
THAT is the Gospel. THAT was the ministry of our Savior.
It should be ours, too.