While riding in the car a few months ago, a song by Christian duo For King & Country came on the radio at a providential time. The title of the track is “Matter” and at its heart it describes how God values us. Listen here —
As the chorus says:
To the one who spoke and set the sun ablaze,
To the one who stopped the storm and walked the waves
To the one who took the tree so he could say…
“You matter. I hope you know you matter.”
At the time of hearing it, I personally needed a word of reminder that I’m never insignificant to God, and neither are my circumstances. Reflecting on it a little deeper, the song also struck a chord with the recent tenor of our nation.
For several years we’ve struggled through catastrophic events and heated conversations that bring up questions over how much each human life matters. Our media is saturated with declarations that certain “lives matter.” Black, Blue, Veteran, Women’s, Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim and Christian Lives, or even All Lives. The hash-tags are #plentiful and the list grows. Some of these statements seek justice or show signs of solidarity, or provide catharsis. But others are reactionary, exclusive and even hate-mongering. I’m afraid the unfortunate truth is that it can be difficult to translate what someone really means when they declare that “____ lives matter,” no matter how they fill-in-the-blank.
In Christian circles, things grow even more difficult when we try to assert which movement Jesus would’ve belonged to. After all, he wasn’t one to shy away from engaging systemic injustice, sinful human nature, or interpersonal politics. So which hash-tag would he have used, if any? Whose lives did he declare mattered the most? Where should the Church stand?
To return to the words of For King & Country, I think the simplest answer is that Jesus never merely spoke about the lives of certain people, he lived right in the midst of the people. He became one of us and spent his precious time on earth looking every kind of person in the face, putting his hands on them, and loving them personally. When Christ spoke truth to power and defied unjust social norms and championed the downtrodden, it was always with perfect discernment, righteous wisdom, and, above all, an intimate connection with the people themselves. It was as if Jesus’ guiding principle, first and foremost, was to tell each one, “You matter. Your life matters to me. Your life matters to God Almighty.” And he gave his own life as the ultimate, eternal punctuation on that statement.
That’s why I think if there’s any guiding statement that I feel good about adopting, unequivocally, it has to be #YouMatter. For me there’s no better way to sum up the message of Jesus’ life. It’s the one message that I most desire to receive from God. It’s also the one message that I most desire to spend my life saying to others, in word and deed. These days, in the midst of all of the competing manifestos that people are trumpeting into the sky, with a myriad of differing intentions, it may just be the singular message that people are failing to speak, failing to hear, and failing to live to one another.
Together here at Shandon UMC, we’ve decided to spend the next seven weeks in a church-wide sermon series entitled, #YouMatter, in an effort to dig deeper into the Gospel of Luke and the way that Jesus models that message for us. Perhaps it will be a chance for many of us to start to hear from Jesus again, or for the first time, just how much we matter to him. And, having done so, perhaps then it will be time to wonder how we can turn to our brothers and sisters, just like Jesus did and with our whole selves, to truly say, “You matter.” Join us.