Perhaps you’re like me and have struggled to put into perspective the death of George Floyd (along with others) and the resulting unrest. For instance, I agree that black lives matter but do not support some of the goals published by BLM. I agree that all lives matter but also recognize that the phrase often ignores our real problems. I agree that blue lives matter but that there is a need for police reform. However, I also find the whole “defund” move idiotic and shortsighted. And, while I may or may not agree with the various protesters, I encourage their right to speak. On the other hand, rioting, looting, and violence are wrong.
I also recognize that we, in America, have come a long way in racial matters, but that we still have a ways to go. So how is an older conservative-leaning rural Christian white person like me supposed to navigate these stormy waters? How do we make headway in a slogan-driven world that has little time for nuance?
I pondered and processed this with little resolution. Then I read a Facebook post by Officer John Rinn of Dedham, Massachusetts. To set the stage, John appears to be a big burly, white police officer in that town. From what I can tell, this is a true story posted on his personal Facebook page. The accompanying picture shows himself and an unnamed smiling black woman.
“I am sitting in my cruiser typing a report. This woman (referencing the picture) just came up to me and asked me if she could talk to me for a second. I said, ‘absolutely’ and got out of my cruiser to speak with her. The very first thing she said was, ‘Your life matters to me.’ She said, ‘I don’t see you as a ‘white cop’ rather, I see you as human… we are all human, and we are all the same.’ She then asked me, ‘Could I give you a hug?’ Which I accepted. I told her, ‘Your life matters to me as well.’ We continued to chat for about twenty minutes about all that is going on in the world. During those twenty minutes… it wasn’t a cop and citizen… or a cop and a black citizen talking. It was just two humans having a conversation. Before she left, she gave me a small bible and told me, ‘I will be praying for you.’ We need more people in the world like this woman.” -John Rinn
That is the key! It’s not an answer based on power, privilege, agenda, or politics. There is no forced guilt or shame. Walking up to someone, even an enemy, and saying “your life matters to me” (and meaning it) is a fulfillment of “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” You don’t matter because of the color of your skin, the clothes you wear, your history, your politics, your religion, or anything else we use to divide. Your life matters to me for two reasons: because you’re a human created in the image of God and because God loves you (john 3:16).
‘Your life matters to me’ creates space and an attitude for listening and caring. It gives room for us to be who we are and to accept others for who they are. It provides room for change and growth because we want to, not because it is the current tidal wave of rightness. ‘Your life matters to me’ invites free speech and the exchange, even the debate, of thoughts and ideas but always in the soil of relationship, conversation, and valuing others.
There is much in our world that is toxic and far removed from “love your neighbor as yourself.” We can point our finger, judge all that is wrong, adopt and fight for an agenda, shame others into obedience, and silence those who don’t toe the line. While that achieves some goals and creates a whisper of unity; it sacrifices our cherished liberty and chills our love.
You may or may not agree. That’s the beauty of this perspective. Your life, you see, matters to me whether we agree or not. Adopting ‘your life matters to me’ is a check on my own attitude. It tamps down my desire to judge and encourages action born of listening and caring. It overcomes the fears we have of each other and invites us to a better place without shame and coercion.
Unlike most of Lambchow’s articles, this one does not have a call to action or encouragement. Whether you adopt this way of moving forward or not is up to you. But for me, well, let me just say this directly to you – your life matters to me!