2nd June 2020
It would take something dramatic to shift the coronavirus pandemic from its top spot in the news headlines. Sadly it was the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that did it, along with the rioting that has followed in numerous US cities. You’ll probably know the story. He was a black man who was arrested by white police officers for a minor offence. And he died after one of the officers knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Among other things, the crowds have been chanting Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe”, as well as, “Black lives matter.” It seems that black lives don’t matter as much to some people, not as much as other lives do.
Christians are used to affirming that every human life is precious. That’s because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. It’s part of what it means to be human. You won’t meet another human being who isn’t made in God’s image. And you won’t meet anything other than a human being that is made in God’s image. It’s the basis for all human rights. It’s why God tells Noah that he’ll hold accountable each human being who takes the life of another. It’s why James says we shouldn’t curse another human being.
And yet, do we live out what we affirm? Or do we live as if some lives do matter more than others? I’m aware that I’m a middle-class and middle-aged white man, and I have certain privileges denied to others. Where are my blindspots? Whose lives am I not seeing? Why were we so slow to report the deaths of older people in care homes, while highlighting younger people who died of coronavirus? Do their lives matter more? And when we speak of someone’s ‘quality of life’ are we in danger of suggesting that some lives are not really worth living?
The lives of black people matter. The lives of older people matter. The lives of disabled people matter. The lives of the unborn matter. If ever there were lives that are routinely discarded, it’s theirs. Do you know how many abortions were carried out in England and Wales in the year 2018? In one year. 200,000.
Just one of the attractive things about Jesus is that all lives really did matter to him. He touched the people nobody else would touch: a man with leprosy, a woman who’d been bleeding for twelve years, the body of a dead girl. And if he didn’t ignore them, he won’t ignore you either.
Let’s thank God that our lives matter so much to him that he gave his only Son to become one of us, to die for us, so that if we believe in him, we won’t die, but have real life, life with him and for ever. And let’s repent of thinking there’s any human life that doesn’t really matter.