Do Black Lives Matter?

August 31, 2016

Dr. Paige Patterson | President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

**This article was originally posted HERE and is used by permission.

President Obama and a host of other leaders seem unable to resolve the racial tensions in our country. And neither they nor anyone else will ever succeed unless there is a return to acknowledging the words found in Genesis: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).

Whatever else this verse might suggest, the clear affirmation is that we are not many races but one—the human race. Consequently, we are united by origin; and when a loss occurs, it is a loss for all. We are inexplicably bound to one another, and we either prosper in the celebration of that arrangement or suffer in the abrogation of it.

Then comes the first murder: Cain kills his brother Abel. Doubtless there was no racial animus here, simply two full brothers. What then was the cause? Once again, Genesis has the answer: anger. Anger against Abel and against God. This attitude of the heart is precisely what fuels violence today even though the Bible warns that “the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

Anger is the most objectionable form of human pride. To some degree, almost everyone struggles with it. In fact, the Bible says, “Whoever has no rule of his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). And by contrast, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding” (Proverbs 14:29). Anger that is not dealt with before God soon festers into bitterness.

During decades of evolutionary instruction, we have been indoctrinated with the idea that men and women are nothing more than sophisticated animals. As a devoted observer of wildlife, including the multiplied varieties of animals on the African continent, I can tell you that your warm cuddlies in the animal kingdom live mostly by tooth and claw. Whether it is ISIS, North Korea, or shootings in the U.S., mankind is all too often quick to imitate the violence of some animals with no reason other than the churning of personal anger.

Is there a solution to this blood-red mayhem? Yes, of course, and it is found in the creation narrative. As that account unfolds in Scripture, of all the species created by God, only one—the human—is said to be made in the image of God. When we take the life of another human, we are killing an individual who carries the image of God. Provision is made for what was intended to be the rare necessity for the social justice system to do that, but even then, to snuff out the life of one carrying the image of God is a serious matter. What if this clear biblical truth were drummed into the heads of social consciousness in this modern era?

And, finally, there is forgiveness. God actually protects Cain against reprisal—a sure sign of God’s longsuffering. But then what can be done about the nakedness of his parents? Many question whether Genesis 3:21 in some sense portends or foreshadows the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. All I can say is that an animal gave its life to provide a covering for the nakedness of our first parents. In the provision of God, Adam and Eve did not die physically; but being clothed of God and accepting those vestments, they appropriated God’s forgiveness.

Forgiveness is God’s crown jewel. In a sense, only He can forgive (Mark 2:7). But by His grace, we too can learn to forgive (Matthew 6:12). In fact, we are never more like God than when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is so difficult because part of you has to die in order to forgive. But this is both good and noble, because “whoever saves his life shall lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). We must die to self-will, to our rights, to all entitlement, to the desire for vengeance in order to be able to practice forgiveness.

Now imagine for a moment a social order where a significant part of the population recognizes that we are all the handiwork of God. Envision a social order in which anger is openly acknowledged as selfishness on steroids and is not approved by God. And what if forgiveness were made the currency for all major human transactions?

Where sociological solutions have failed to accomplish much of anything on a global basis, and where advanced education has greatly complicated matters apart from Christ, a world bathed in forgiveness would become monumentally distinct from the one in which we now live. Come to think of it, the church is designed to model such a social order. Perhaps if we begin with the church, the rest of society may follow when inspired by a living example of the difference Christ makes!