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COTTON: Heed Jesus' example: Black Lives Matter

COTTON: Heed Jesus' example: Black Lives Matter

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All too often, those calling themselves as conservative Christians are wary of participating in social justice because they do not want to be labelled as “liberal” or “progressive.” Sadly, their political standing and service to their party outweigh their service to the living Christ.

Jesus did not allow the society or politics of his day to define his ministry, He positioned himself to make a revolutionary prophetic impact upon his society and the politics of the time. Jesus did not buy into the limited options the culture placed before him. He exposed the ugly injustices in all kingdom-of-the-world options by offering a radically distinct alternative.

He even went as far as to rebut the claim of sedition against Rome by saying his kingdom was not of this world, thereby being innocent of the charges. Jesus went out of his way to help specific groups of people—the alienated, the mistreated, and those facing injustice.

Therefore, saying “Black Lives Matter” and participating in a movement seeking justice, positive reform and empowerment are among the most Christ-like things we can do. Much of Jesus’ ministry, in essence, said that Samaritan, children’s, gentile, Jewish, women’s and lepers’ lives matter.

Christians must recognize that our society is filled with numerous groups and communities facing systemic oppression, and we must act. We must admit and address the complex realities that create such problems, and avoid the spiritual laziness that tempts us to rely on generic excuses and solutions.

Christians do a disservice to the gospel by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of religious platitudes. We like to generalize the words of Jesus and transform his life into a one-size-fits-all model that can apply to all of humanity.

In addition to a salvation message, he intentionally, purposefully and passionately addressed very specific causes. He radically addressed diverse and complicated conflicts and shattered the status quo, helping people being abused, violated and oppressed.

Involving ourselves with these issues—serving those who need justice—is an example of following Jesus that today’s Christians must adhere to. Throughout the world, millions of people are suffering. But many Christians remain apathetic or ignorant or refuse to admit problems exist. They’re uncomfortable facing complex and controversial issues around race, ethnicity, history and culture.

To avoid such discomfort, many Christians assume that equality and justice looks like a dismissal and rejection of any cultural, ethnic or distinguishing identity. They believe our very humanity should supersede all other labels or descriptions, and that a love of Christ wipes away any “superficial” characteristic such as skin color, heritage or other cultural identifier.

But participating in social justice is a Christian tradition inspired by Jesus, a deeply spiritual practice.

Instead of being motivated by political affiliation, financial gain, power, pride, control or our own secular motivations, we should be active participants for the sake of following Jesus—for the purpose of glorifying God through acts of justice, empowerment and love.

We are called to recognize the marginalized, help the oppressed and avoid rejecting their significance by denying their identity or ignoring their plight. By acknowledging and actively participating in causes such as the #blacklivesmatter movement, addressing racism, immigration, gender equality and a litany of other issues, you are following in the steps of Jesus.

Social causes do not oppose the gospel message. They are an important part of it.

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