I have recently found myself grappling with the stark and disheartening realities that 2023 has thrust upon us. The landscape is marred by mass shootings, school violence, homicides, illicit drug dealings, vandalism, a surge in juvenile crime and the persistent presence of discrimination in all its forms.

The political arena, which should ideally be a bastion of mature discourse, often resembles a playground where elected officials bicker like toddlers vying for possession of the most coveted toy, even coming close to fistfights on committee floors. This spectacle is most evident when crucial topics such as gun control or civil rights are discussed. 

The Black Lives Matter movement has witnessed protesters being brutalized by law enforcement, adding another layer of distress to an already troubled reality.

The Religious Right, with its purported divine mandate, attempts to justify these distressing circumstances in the name of God. They believe God sanctions the mistreatment of individuals with skin colors different from pale white, those embracing belief systems beyond “Christian” and those who don’t conform to heterosexual norms.

For those who instinctively counter the phrase “Black Lives Matter” with a resolute “All Lives Matter,” I invite you to consider the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15. Imagine a shepherd entrusted with a flock of 100 sheep. 

In the wilderness, one sheep goes astray, prompting the shepherd to leave the 99 and embark on a quest to find and retrieve the lost one by whatever means necessary. Upon locating it, the shepherd rejoices, cradles the sheep on his shoulders, and returns it to the safety of the herd.

In this story, Jesus, as the shepherd, understands the peril the one sheep faces. While the 99 others may not be entirely without risk, they are relatively safer than the isolated, ostracized sheep—the one who might be gay, black, disabled or any other “abnormal” identity. Jesus, undeterred by the protests of the majority clamoring, “What about us? Don’t we matter too?” prioritizes the rescue of the imperiled sheep.

Jesus showed us that he cares about the disadvantaged minority enough to risk the safety and security of himself and the majority. Why aren’t we as selfless as Jesus?

The Ten Commandments include a directive to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Beyond the conventional interpretation that prohibits using curse words, let’s reconsider what that means. 

Perhaps it extends to supporting ungodly, unloving, and un-Jesus-like actions while invoking the Bible as a shield of justification. Such actions could be a form of taking the Lord’s name in vain—a misuse of divine teachings to rationalize behavior that contradicts the essence of love and compassion emphasized in Jesus’ teachings. 

Those teachings were three things — love God, love the neighbor, and love yourself. If you find yourself taking the Bible and using it as a shield, I want you to reconsider if you are doing those three things. 

Are you embodying the spirit of “love thy neighbor” that Jesus taught when you send LGBTQIA+ teenagers to conversion camps where their entire reality is challenged and many are driven off a cliff of depression, often leading to suicide?

How about when you rally behind the murderers of the countless innocent black men and women in this country by the law enforcement officials sworn to serve and protect us? George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Say their names.

All lives matter, not because black lives don’t matter, but because Jesus showed us that he would seek out lost and ostracized people. So when one of us gets left out, let us find them and tell them they have not been forgotten. 

Remember those words from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

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