In the aftermath of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and numerous other black citizens, we are being offered a variety of political and social solutions. At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, I would invite us to reflect on some of the basic teachings of Jesus, asking that we reflect on our core identity as followers of Christ. What does He show us and urge us toward as we think about our neighbors, our fellow humans, and even our enemies?
Jesus taught what has come to be called the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The Golden Rule is about giving others a fair shake; treating them justly. As Jesus’ followers, we’ve been invited into a “new creation” kind of life, whose transformative goal is that God’s will might be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
More pointedly, Jesus taught that God’s second greatest command was “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When asked by a scribe, “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus told a parable about the surprisingly merciful behavior of a stereotypically despised Samaritan man. Jesus then told the scribe to go and behave in a neighborly way.
Jesus further taught his followers in John 13, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Why this obsession about loving each other in Jesus’ teaching? No doubt because it is rooted in God’s foundational love for us. John 3:16, the most likely verse to appear in a sports stadium, speaks of God’s love for the whole world, each human being. In giving the Great Commission in Matthew 28, Jesus’ vision was to make disciples of every nations, baptizing them and teaching them to live in the way of God’s Kingdom. Everyone is welcome in God’s kingdom reign because God loves all creation.
The fundamental meaning of our baptism in 1 Corinthians 12 is that we have been incorporated into God’s beautiful international family: “By one Spirit you were baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free.” In our weekly practice of communion we remember that at the Lord’s table, all who wish to partake are freely welcomed, in an echo of God’s hospitality to us “while we were still sinners.” In Romans 15, Paul echoed the hospitable message of Jesus in saying, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
In John’s vision of Revelation 7, a great multitude beyond counting is envisioned in heaven that is composed of people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” singing “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb.” In summary, the entire ethos of the New Testament bespeaks God’s abiding care for all peoples, nations, ethnicities, and language groups. If we pay attention to what Jesus taught and did, and how the early Church sought to embody this (however imperfectly), we see clearly that Jesus gives no warrant for the perverse ideologies of white supremacy, racism, or racial inferiority. May we go and “love one another, as he first loved us.”