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The past few years, the U.S. has seen an increasing concern about the questionable deaths of black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement. This concern exists in part because of our country’s history of legalized dehumanization of black people and in part because of questionable police shootings of black people in recent years. Out of concern for the value of black lives, a movement began emphasizing the importance of black lives.

The Black Lives Matter movement is both diverse and ideological. Yet, one of the intentions of this movement is to highlight the importance of black lives taken by the police, especially white police. To be clear, holding the police accountable for a misuse of power is very important, so that if police cut short black lives (or any life for that matter) because of racism, then America’s citizens have the rights within the law to ensure that justice will be found for those lives taken by police brutality.

On the other hand, some who champion the concept that black lives matter and who support the movement, while vociferously speaking out against alleged police brutality against black people, will speak with deafening silence about black on black violence.

Many African-American activists would agree that black on black violence is wrong and needs to be dealt with. But, at least one activist has said, there is a difference between state sponsored violence committed by the police against blacks and black on black violence committed by private citizens.

The Power of Sin

Certainly, there are many social and racist realities that affect the way people interact with each other, including how the police interact with black and brown people and how black and brown people interact with one another. And yes, one’s social environment and personal choices play an important role as to how black people (and all people) function and relate to others in society. But the fundamental reason why there is so much black on black violence in certain parts of our urban communities is because of sin (Genesis 3) and its powerful reign over the social structures in which we live.

Many of the black on black homicides in Chicago, for example, are gang related, poverty related, drug related, turf related, or all of the above. To state it another way, black on black violence is socially complicated and there are many social reasons as to why certain poor urban communities populated with black citizens are some of the most violent urban communities in the U.S. But sin and its power is the driving force behind black on black violence (and all forms of violence) in urban communities (see Gal. 5:16-20).

This observation should not surprise black and brown Christians who believe in the authority of the Bible since the first sin in the Genesis narrative is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel (Genesis 4). This statement neither minimizes the historical sufferings of black and brown people because of systemic injustice. Rather, I’m simply emphasizing a biblical and theological reason behind much black suffering in certain urban communities is sin.

Sin is both individual transgression and a cosmological power (Romans 3, 6). Sin rules over the present evil age (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:1-3). Sin has affected every individual and every social structure in creation (Romans 3, 6; Gal. 1:4; 4:3; Eph. 2:1-3).

When black people murder black people, they are choosing to do so. Their environment influences their choices, the racialized social constructs they’ve inherited influences their choices, and the power of sin in their lives controls and influences their actions and choices. Black on black murder has absolutely nothing to do with black people having a predisposed proclivity toward violence because of their race or supposed biological inferiority.

Instead, black on black murder has everything to do with both social realities and the power of sin (Romans 3, 6). Sin uses one’s social environment, personal relationships, social interactions, and social structures to affect the personal choices of all people, choices in certain black contexts that have led to and will continue to lead to black on black murder.

The Power of the Gospel

Lest I’m misinterpreted and accused of arguing for something for which I’m not, let me state the point in unequivocally clear language. Racism is real. Social injustice is real. Systematic racism is real. Racialization is real.

But the power of sin is the driving power that determines, shapes, and controls all other social realities. So, the power of the whole gospel (not a half gospel that only focuses on one’s individual relationship with God) that focuses on individual salvation and cosmological regeneration must and can overcome the power of sin and its hold over urban communities when it’s faithfully proclaimed, obeyed, and applied in real social contexts in ways that help meet the needs of people.

It is good and right for black and brown and white people to continue to work toward civil rights, to work within the law to rid the world of white supremacy and all forms of racism and racial discrimination, to speak out against black dehumanization, to care deeply about the value and human dignity of all lives and to emphasize the concept black lives matter too when people in society question the value of black lives. And it is good and right for black and brown and white people to work in their communities and within the legal system to make sure that black and brown lives are given the same kind of opportunities to flourish as white lives in society.

But it is especially good and right for black and brown and white Christians to engage our diverse communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ and call our kinsmen according to the flesh to repent and believe the gospel so that they would be saved from God’s wrath, forgiven of their sins, justified by faith, reconciled to God and to fellow humans, liberated from the power of sin and death (Rom. 3:21-6:23; Eph. 2:11-3:8), and participate in a new, transformed creation (Gal. 6:15; Revelation 20-22). And black and brown and white Christians should regularly pray God to use the whole gospel to transform those urban communities that suffer the most because of black on black violence.

The only weapon that can end black on black violence once and for all is the gospel of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. The gospel is individual and cosmological. It makes sinners right with God and it reconciles the cosmos to God through the cross (Rom. 3:21-5:2; 8:19-30; Col. 1-2). All Christians scattered throughout the world should regularly pray for the gospel believing churches in violent black and brown urban communities and in all communities, and pray to engage their communities wisely with gospel words and gospel actions.

May all Christians everywhere preach and proactively live out this gospel on the ground in their communities, including in diverse black and brown communities. As black and brown Christians, we need to be honest and say: black on black violence is killing black people. But the gospel of Jesus Christ can reconcile alienated black people to God, to one another, and to all people in Christ (see Eph. 2:11-22). Amen!

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