Background Passages: Genesis 1:26-27; Galatians 3:8; Mark 12:26-27
The Broadway musical Waitress tells a story about a young woman whose life turns out vastly different than she imagined it would. When life leaves her struggling as a waitress in a small diner, eking out a day to day existence with little to show for her effort, she feels invisible and unworthy of love and respect. She encounters a man who takes notice of her, sees her for who she really is. He spends time trying to convince her that she, and her life, are important.
Sara Bareilles, a talented singer and songwriter, penned the lyrics to You Matter to Me. The song speaks poignantly to the need in all of us to matter to someone. She wrote,
“I could find the whole meaning of life in those sad eyes.
They’ve seen things that you never quite say, but I hear.
Come out of hiding I’m right here beside you.
And I’ll stay there as long as you let me.
“Because you matter to me.
Simple and plain, and not much to ask from somebody.
You matter to me.
I promise you do, you, you matter, too.
I promise you do, you see?
You matter to me.”
In explaining the lyrics to the song, Bareilles said, “It was something so simple that I think is at the heart of what we really look for when we want someone who really sees us. It’s just a feeling that what you do and who you are matters to someone.”
I’ve listened a great deal to that song in the past two weeks. Within the lyrics lies an answer, I think, to the many issues that tend to divide us today, including “Black Lives Matter.” “Police Lives Matter.” These are such sensitive issues and I’ll probably fumble through it. Please bear with me as I try to express my thoughts.
First, it matters to me that an African American man or woman is shot and killed by a police officer, whether that act was willful and deliberate, a terrible misunderstanding or an absolute accident. Black lives matter. Secondly, it matters that an individual, acting in unmitigated anger, willfully and deliberately targets and kills any police officer. Police lives matter.
The personal and national tragedies occurring across our country today sadden me. The division among us which these tragedies create saddens me. That the tragedies get exploited by individuals, media and groups with political agendas, saddens me. The social wedge it drives between us creates a deep, personal and public fracture that will take time and selfless understanding to heal.
I believe fundamentally that your life, regardless of who you are or what you do, matters. First and foremost, you matter to God. Genesis declares that people…all of us…are made in the “image of God.”
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:26-27.
Every human being, regardless of race, ethnicity, background or profession, in some way mirrors God…something of God can be seen and felt in each of us. As a result of our created connection to God, all people are important to God. All people matter to God.
There ought to be a God-inspired corollary to that truth, especially to those who call ourselves Christian. Because God matters to me–as His child, His creation–you also matter to me. Neither race, nor ethnicity, nor social status, nor profession, ought to change that belief.
Paul tells us in Galatians 3:8, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The apostle need not spell out every category of human being for us to understand that in the eyes of our Father in heaven we stand the same. In every way that matters to Him and to us, we stand the same.
I was taught never to judge another unless I had walked in their shoes. My actions and the actions of others, are typically predicated on our personal experiences. How I respond to situations depends on what I have experienced, seen, heard and perceived…circumstances that impact my life. I cannot, therefore, fully understand the real and perceived discrimination African Americans feel. I have never walked in their shoes.
Nor can I fully understand the anxiety and trepidation a police officer must feel every time he or she answers a radio call for a domestic disturbance, a break-in, traffic stop or at any social protest. I have never walked in their shoes.
The plain and simple truth is we don’t need to walk in another’s shoes to sense their anguish over life circumstances. We just need to act on our faith principles and react in the love of Christ to each and every person we encounter.
Consider this. Jesus had been involved in one of those intense debates with the Jewish leadership who questioned so many of his teachings. Near the end, one of the teachers of the law came to Jesus and asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Our Savior responded with a clear message about our relationship to God and to one another.
“The most important one is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 28-31
We have an abundance of issues that would divide us today…gay and transgender rights, immigration, terrorism, “Black Lives Matter,” “Police Lives Matter.” “All Lives Matter.” All I know is that my political and social perspectives…all aspects of my life…must match my faith perspective.
Those groups and individuals at the center of every one of these issues matter to God. Therefore, they and their feelings must matter to me. I matter to God. Therefore, I and my feelings, must matter to you. Until we start listening with intent to love as God loves, we will never find the common ground we need. We will never truly matter to each other.
You matter to God. You matter to me. As Bareilles says, “It’s not much to ask from somebody.”