In a short interaction with local Roman authorities, we see that the Apostle Paul would have understood the underlying arguments behind “Black Lives Matter.” In Acts 22, Paul visited Jerusalem for a pivotal meeting with Peter, James, and the other elders. While there, Jews accused Paul of heresy and incited a riot against him. Mobs of people filled the streets, dragging Paul out of the Temple, intending to beat him to death. The local Roman commander and his officers broke up the fighting and allowed Paul to tell the story of his conversion and his mission to preach to the Gentiles.
Roman Lives Matter
After Paul’s eloquent defense, the crowds shouted curses and threw dust into the air. The Roman Commander saved Paul from the mob and ordered that he be lashed with whips. In verse 25, Paul asked quietly, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
The soldiers knew the situation had changed dramatically.
Consequently, the officers quickly adjusted their approach to Paul. As a Jew, Paul could be lashed with whips. But as a Roman, he deserved respect and had rights as a citizen. Sure, Jewish lives mattered, but under the local authorities, Roman lives mattered more. Let’s call this “Roman Privilege.”
Black Lives Matter
When I first heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” I instinctively asked, “Don’t all lives matter?” Of course, all lives matter, but like Paul’s experience with the Romans, our present-day reality makes some lives matter more than others. It should not be so. “Black Lives Matter” is a statement about the fact that all lives should matter, but we fall short of that goal, too often.
None of us enjoys hearing the news these days. We’ve trained ourselves to forget it as quickly as possible. But we can’t turn away from this truth and pretend it’s not there. Instead, we face the truth because Black Lives Matter. Black lives matter to Paul, they matter to Jesus, and they matter to me. I will not be silent.
Mr. President, I respectfully submit that these times are not a test of will. They are a test of heart. I pray that you answer the right questions in the right spirit. Godspeed.