Laws might change behavior but they cannot change hearts. A true revolution in our country—one that claims victory over violence and eliminates all exclusions to the proclamation that all lives matter—will come only as hearts are changed and as we recognize who our neighbors are and learn to truly love them as ourselves.
A changed heart leads to positive action. But it’s also true that taking action can lead to a changed heart. With this in mind, here are six suggestions of things we can do to demonstrate the conviction that all lives matter.
Pray and Discuss the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi on a Regular Basis
Pray this prayer and meditate on it once a day for at least a month. After that, return to it regularly. Consider praying it with your family or small group. Make it a topic of discussion so
that it becomes real—second nature—in your life.
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
This important concept from the above prayer is not just a spiritual concept but a practical one as well. Focusing on others instead of ourselves demonstrates emotional intelligence and compassion.
Our friend Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu observes that this is a particularly important goal when developing relationships across racial lines.
According to Kunjufu, we must first acknowledge that we have differences. Then we must strive to understand our differences.
However, genuine reconciliation and healing take root only as we appreciate and celebrate our differences, as opposed to merely living with them.
Build and Cultivate Relationships across Ethnic Lines
We have in mind not putting Band-Aids on perceived problems but rather entering into genuine relationships with others. This requires escaping our cocoons and venturing outside of our comfort zones in order to do new and challenging things. For white folks, it entails reading books written by people of color and going to places and attending events organized and led by minority people.
It means not just visiting churches that represent other cultures and ethnicities but fully participating in their worship.
Other possible steps include inviting people who are different to your Sunday school classes, small groups and social activities.
Don’t allow the conversation to remain on the surface; pursue meaningful and significant dialogue. Perhaps even plan a discussion around a question or topic that is likely to bring out differing opinions and perspectives. Make sure everyone feels safe expressing their opinions, controversial though they may be.
Strive to Build Friendships with People Who Are Different
This is not just about race or ethnicity. It could be with people who are younger or older, or with someone with a different educational background or different interests in life. If you are a Republican, build a relationship with a Democrat. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong but about looking at life from different perspectives.
We can learn a lot—and grow a lot—from hanging out with those with whom we differ.
This also includes befriending people of other religions. Start having coffee or lunch with a Muslim or Jewish person. Or a Buddhist or an atheist. Remember that each of us bears the image of God and that no matter what our religious beliefs, our lives matter.
Remember also that each interaction with people who are different exercises our capacity to understand and empathize with others.
Support Restorative Justice Policies and Efforts
Restorative justice is starting to become an alternative to “lock them up.” Search out where there is talk and discussion of this in your communities. Restorative justice is essentially a community-led response to crime and conflict. It emphasizes the ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of community, attempting to bring together all affected parties in an effort to arrive at resolution. Restorative justice represents an alternative to the current punitive system of justice. Instead of viewing crimes as being committed against the state, it focuses on the harm that has been done to the community and to individuals within it.
Restorative justice focuses on healing communities, not on punishment. This emphasis on healing brings greater accountability and support for the offender as well as restoration of the victim and affected community members. Arguably, there is not less accountability in restorative justice but significantly more.
Please do what you can to proclaim to the world that all lives matter. Some may march in protest. Some may pray. Some may write letters. Some may blog. Some may write poetry and songs.
It might be that some can only weep. But we all need to do something.
And as we do, we obey Christ’s command to love God with every fiber of our beings and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Let’s treat all people as if their lives do matter.
This article was adapted from John M. Perkins’ new book, Do All Lives Matter?: The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For. Used with permission.