Black Lives Matter to Jesus: The Salvation of Black Life and All Life in Luke and Acts
The third evangelist makes Black-skinned people central to his claim in Luke and Acts that the gospel of Jesus is restoring the children of God. Within Luke's literary environment, the identity of the children of God was linked to national/ethnic identity. Many Jewish texts argued for the Jews' position as God's children because they are bound to God by covenant; they are God's firstborn. But there is also a more general sense within this tradition that all human beings are made in the image of God and are, thus, the children of God through Adam. In the Gospel, Luke asserts that all nations and all ethnicities, including Israel, have questionable filial status vis-à-vis God. Both Israel and the nations are restored in status as God's children through Jesus, the Son of God.
In Acts, Luke explores the initial return of Israel and all ethnicities to God through the witness of the church empowered by the Spirit. To epitomize the return of all nations to God, Luke narrates the salvation of Black-skinned Africans. These Black lives are emphasized to signify that their representation in the church demonstrates the universal extent to which the salvation of Jesus Christ will reach. Their presence in the church is also meant to dignify their Black skin against an aesthetic bias that was prevalent in Greco-Roman views at that moment. This subversion of ethnographic bias helped Luke's audience sustain a gospel-centered critique against the devaluation of Black life.