Following Jesus

By David Blair

Jesus was a man with brown or black skin.  He certainly felt that all lives matter, yet I have no doubt that he would have stated “Black Lives Matter” as his concern was so clearly with the oppressed, the poor, those who in Howard Thurman’s word are “disinherited.”  After all, he chose to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan rather than the Good Neighbor.  He was making a point about what it means to truly love our sisters and brothers by lifting up the despised Samaritan as the model neighbor.

Jesus’s entire message of radical love for God, for neighbor, even for enemy, is a challenge to me in my daily life.  For all of us!  Some of his words have taken on special meaning in recent months.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  [Matthew 5:17; all quotations from the NRSV].  

Black Lives Matter seeks not to overturn the founding promises of our country but instead to find and fulfill their deepest meaning.

I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother. [Matthew 10:34-39]

Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.  [Matthew 8:22]

Primary loyalty is not to family but to Jesus and to doing God’s will.  Lineage, blood, hierarchy are all subordinated to this.  God’s family is defined by doing love, not by who or where I am born.  Jesus does not set out to shatter families, yet if by speaking the truth and acting in love we do break the confines of family, class and ethnic/racial identity, that is a necessary cost of following Jesus.

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.  [Matthew 6:5]

It is thrilling to see how “Black Lives Matter” has resonated across the country, in every state, in cities and small towns. May it continue to resonate!  Yet if all I do is put the sign on my front lawn, and that’s where it stops, Jesus tells me I am a hypocrite praying in public so others may see me.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. [Matthew 19:24]

The riches Jesus refers to include the inherited privileges of being white.  I must become conscious of these and tell the truth to myself and to others.  Without the truth, we cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. [Mark 8:34-38]

I’ve always understood this as a metaphor for letting go of the narrow, small self in order to find a home with God, to be joined with the infinite Self.  This is my understanding of resurrection.  Being “born again” in this way was for me a scary and difficult journey, painful and costly and ultimately liberating.

Yet there can be further costs of discipleship.  I am now following the query:  Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God?  What am I called to do, who am I called to be, at this time?

I pray with Meister Eckhart:  “Open my eyes to what is happening in my life.  Help me to see your particular path for me.  Give me the insight to see what holds me back and the grace to let it go.”

David Blair taught in New Hampshire’s public schools for 20 years; worked for six years in the Philippines, China and Vietnam; then co-founded and directed the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough, NH.  He is now a student at BU STH in the Religion & Conflict Transformation Program.

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