And Jesus walked into the 3rd Precinct, sat down and began to teach them, saying: You have heard it said, “Whatever you do onto the least of these, you do onto me.”

I’ve heard you repeat that in your churches and in your Bible studies. I’ve seen it on your social media profiles. I need you to understand what that means:

It means that I am a black life.

When you slowly suffocate a man to death in the street while he pleads for breath, you’re slowly suffocating me. When you drive your knee into his neck until it closes, you’re driving your knee into my neck.

When you close stand by and watch him expire without helping him, you’re ignoring my murder. When you execute young men at traffic stops for doing nothing than having darker skin than yours, you’re executing me, because mine is darker than yours.

When you knock an old person down in the street, you’re knocking me down. When you lob tear gas into crowds whose faces you cannot see, you’re lobbing it into my eyes and down my throat and choking me.

When you fire rubber bullets into the heads of women bringing water to marchers, you’re firing them into my head. When you strike the face of an unarmed teenager, you strike mine. That is my blood on your baton.

When you indiscriminately run peaceful people over with your patrol car, you’re running me over. Your tires crush my bones and tear my tendons. When you mock the termination of a black life with your friends, you’re the laughing soldiers who stood around my cross making a mockery of me.

When you spit on people of color, you’re spitting on me. When you deny the value of black life, you’re denying my worth. This has always been true. I made my home in the gutters, with the people of the street; with the outcasts and the marginalized, with the maligned and the disrespected. I was always where the powerless pushed back against the powerful.

I was always where the least were asking to be treated with humanity.

I am here now, with these exhausted, desperate human beings pleading for decency and I am kneeling across from you in these protests. I am waiting for you to stop defending Caesar and to be the agents of peace you’re supposed to be. I am looking for you to protect and serve me in my pigmentation.

I am your black neighbor, giving you the chance to love me as you love yourself, to value my life and as much as your own. I was here before you were born, before America was something white people took from people they slaughtered, and something built with the hands of other people they stole.

Before your flags and your anthems and before your nationalism ever had a nation, I was demanding the release of the slave and emancipation of the imprisoned and liberation of the oppressed and hope for the hopeless.

Two thousand years ago I was here living with the street rabble and healing the wounds of Empire and turning over tables and screaming at religious hypocrisy—and I was warning people not to become so corrupt with power and so enamored with money that they forfeited their souls.

I was here speaking against people like this president and I was murdered by people like him and the more you embrace him, the more contempt you will have for me, the more harm you will be willing to do to me, the less my life will matter to you.

I am the slave, the prisoner, the college student you pull over, the man lying in the street, the woman carrying water. I am the kneeling, silent black man waiting for justice that you can help give me.

I am the least of these. My life matters.

When Jesus finished speaking, many were upset by his teachings and grew agitated. Some screamed at him, some tried to justify themselves. Others walked away, overtaken by guilt.

Jesus knelt down.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.