I have tested positive for the virus—not the one being monitored by the CDC, but a genetic virus. It is spread from person-to-person, but tracing is not necessary. I know where I got it. I received it from my parents; I gave it to my children. I have a sin nature. Dr. Paul wrote my diagnosis: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
This diagnosis includes us all. We all have the same blood. We have all tested positive for this virus named sin.
The burden of this disease is extensive. It’s terminal—always. In the interval between the contraction of the disease and death, it has devastating results. We do not see the world clearly. We don’t love as we ought to love. In the simplest of terms, I am proud and self-serving.
A couple of weeks ago, I became aware of these results in a new way when talking with a Black friend. He is a very bright young man, having earned a degree in psychology and an “A” in New Testament Greek. Our friendship has included his staying in our home. I have advocated for him by writing to the court to challenge Lady Justice to keep her blindfold on and not treat him unjustly because he is Black. But those actions did not make me see my disease; they just prepared me for the realization of its results.
This happened as we were talking about his deep emotions unearthed by the current protests. He said something that rocked me to the core. “Dr. Veum, a lot of white people have been kind to me, and some have even done nice things for me. But I get tired of being treated like a project.”
That’s when I saw it. I have repudiated prejudice. I have even taken sacrificial actions. But if I have treated him like a project, I haven’t loved as I ought to love. I haven’t loved my Black friend as a brother.
Shortly after that conversation, another friend shared a perspective he had heard, but didn’t recall where: “Born of the same blood. Redeemed by the same Blood.” The first phrase of that line reflects back to me St. Paul’s diagnosis of my disease. My sinful self thinks of myself and my kind as being more important. I choose to not feel my friend’s deep pain, the pain of being mistrusted just because he is Black. I choose not to treat him as family, recognizing him as my brother.
Except the Apostle Paul asserts that we are all born of the same blood. As a Jew speaking to Greeks on Mars Hill, he put it this way: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth… From one man he made all the nations” (Acts 17:24, 26). The prophet Malachi challenges his congregation with the same message: “Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?” (Malachi 2:10). We are born from the same blood. Every race, every culture, every person belongs to the same human family.
That makes every person we encounter our neighbor. God calls us to love each person of every race with no exceptions and never to treat them as projects. “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). God’s Word leaves no room for prejudice or superiority.
Then the Scriptures go even further. As I was writing this and looking up passages on this subject in my old Thompson Chain Reference Bible, I was pointed to a section beginning in Matthew 25:41 that I didn’t want to remember:
“Then (the King) will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
He will tell us why we are on the left: We failed to act. When he was hungry, we gave him no food. When he was a stranger, we did not welcome him. When he was without proper clothing, when he was in prison, when he was sick, we did not visit him. When he was treated unjustly, we did not advocate for him. Our ignorance—when did we see you?—will be no excuse, for Jesus comes to us in “the least of these.”
Then the parable ends, “And these will go away into eternal punishment…” We are called to action. We are born of the same blood. Every person in our society is my neighbor, but I have not loved my neighbor as myself. The diagnosis is precise and concise. I have a sin nature. I have sinned. I am guilty.
But then Jesus came. He made me his neighbor. He even visited me in prison. Condemned as I was to the prison of God’s judgment, he took my sin nature and my sin to the cross. In the ultimate injustice, he was condemned and crucified in my place. He released me from the prison of eternal death and hell. He redeemed me by his Blood.
And, Jesus redeemed you. He redeemed every person of every race by the Same Blood. On that point, Scripture is absolutely clear. On that point Romans 3:23-24 is absolutely clear:
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Revelation 5:9 reminds us that someday people from all cultures and all races will sing the song of the Redeemed in praise of the Lamb who was slain:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Until that day it is our privilege and calling to love and serve our neighbors, not as projects but as persons created by our heavenly Father. My friend has a vision for doing this. He plans to create a nonprofit organization based on equality, that will teach youth through community programs how to fight adversity. I promised that I would serve on his board.
We are born of the Same Blood. Today, we join all who embrace Christ at his table, united as one Body, Redeemed by the Same Blood. Someday we will join together in eternity. The virus—the sin nature with all its prejudice—gone forever. Worthy is the Lamb.
Dr. David Veum is President of Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.