Black and White in a Gray World
People are interesting.
I remember going to Ocean City with my parents every October and staying at the same hotel, the Santa Maria that used to be on 15th street. Since it was October, it would be chilly, but that never stopped my parents from sitting on the large boardwalk-facing patio and watching people. As people would walk up and down the boardwalk, my parents would sit there and stare at them, sometimes commenting about them.
This would go on for hours.
One thing that never ceased to amaze me was just how long my parents could watch people. I started to think they were in the CIA and watching their next target.
As I have gotten older, I find myself on some days just sitting and watching people.
I’ve learned that people are so very different!
Some are tall, some are short. Some are darker skinned, some more fair-skinned. Some have hair, others do not.
And not only do people look differently, but they act differently as well. Some are loud and others are more reserved. Some people like to laugh a lot while others are more solemn. Some people like to be the center of attention while others like to, well, watch people.
And it is precisely our differences that cause us a lot of problems!
Lately we have had race issues causing division in our country again.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.”
The gospel doesn’t stop us from dealing with social issues such as racial division. Just the opposite, it compels us to act.
Unfortunately, as a typical white male, it is very difficult for me to act without finding my every action or comment judged more strictly than if someone of color said or did it. And I understand this, but it doesn’t it make it any more right than a white person judging the statements or actions of a person of color more harshly.
We live in a society where race and racism is constantly in the forefront.
But God put the nail in the coffin of racism when he created man and woman. God created man and woman “in His image.” No person, or people group, is more or less human than another.
This means that if God, in the first few pages of His holy book, said that ALL people are formed in God’s image, then the people who are committing atrocities due to race have a distrust of God’s Word. All of the large scale, and small scale, genocides and ethnic cleansings that have happened in history is nothing short of a satanic plan to lead people away from God’s Word and led to people who believed they were more “human” than those they were cleansing, enslaving, or murdering.
Acts 17:26 – And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place
Paul is very clear in Acts 17:26 that all of humanity was formed through a single man. We all trace our ancestry back to a single couple, Adam and Eve. The Bible is basically the story of our unity through worldly diversity.
From one mom and one dad, we get all the diverse people groups around the world. Genesis 10 explains this perfectly! After the fall and the flood, the people were divided into their different clans, languages, and nations.
But if we are to be honest, how many times when a racial discussion comes up do we think about the gospel first? What is the first thought in your mind when you hear that a white police officer shot and killed an African American suspect.
I reckon that you are not thinking to yourself that we are all made in God’s image and that we are all from the same family. No, most likely if you are Caucasian you are quick to come to the defense of the police officer and if you are African American you are thinking about how this is probably a racial incident, or at least hoping that it is not.
That means that our inclination goes directly to the racial issue, not the gospel solution.
I want to challenge us to look beyond color. We need to look to heritage. Let’s not place our focus simply on the color of the person. Let’s look at their rich heritage in their cultural ethnicity. When we look at color alone, we are looking at biology. Ethnicity looks at social, cultural, linguistic, historical, and religious characteristics. Currently there are over 16,000 ethnolinguistic groups (people groups) in the world throughout 200 or so countries.
In America it makes no sense to call people black, white, or brown. We are Anglo-American, African-American, Latin American, Asian American and others.
One thing that I have heard a lot as I have tried to teach this to people is that I, as the white person in the room, am trying to let everyone off the hook and sweep all of the years of racial problems away.
But that is not the case at all!
I want us to move forward from it. Instead of keeping the focus on biology, which led to years of oppression and hatred, I would like us to move into an ethnolinguistic look at race. Racism is kept alive in only the biological realm, but when we move beyond that and look at a person for all of their ethnolinguistic characteristics, then we realize that focusing only on biology is a sin. The gospel message is unique in how it is able to bring unity in the midst of diversity.
The Bible has plenty of stories about evil pride and ethnic prejudice.
Genesis 6:5 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
The evil turns to clan wars. The earth fills with more and more people and those people hurt each other more and more. Even though many of the Bible’s pages show problems between different ethnic groups, the Bible also shows a very different story, a God who loves every single person on the face of the planet, regardless of which clan, which tribe, or which people group you come from. In Genesis 11 all the nations rebel against God and in Genesis 12, God chooses Israel to be His people. But in Genesis 12:3 God promises that all of humanity will know the blessings that were given to Israel.
Genesis 12:3 – I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God then gave Israel laws on how to deal with diverse groups of people.
Exodus 22:21 – You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
And then God shows his anger when Israel doesn’t live up to those laws.
Ezekiel 22:29 – The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.
But humanity seems to get in the way and when the Christian church started, there was a deep chasm between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.
But Jesus was introduced as an immigrant fleeing persecution. Jesus’ family lived in Egypt as immigrants. When they returned to Israel, they were expecting a mighty king that would overthrow the government, but that thinking was too small for Jesus. Instead, He showed love to those from Canaan, Samaria, Greece and Rome.
For so long, those who were different were seen as inferior, even in the Christian camps (sounds like today, eh?).
Ephesians 2:12-14 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
Ephesians 2:18-19 – For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God
Those verses show how the gospel reunites people from different ethnicities.
It all makes sense now!
When the Fall happened and sin entered the scene, it not only separated man and woman from God but from each other. Christ conquered sin on the cross, giving us the way to unification with Him and with each other.
But we are not called to give up that which makes us different.
The gospel calls us to celebrate our differences, value our cultures, and acknowledge history. Regardless of our political leanings, the gospel does not show us that race is an issue to be solved. The gospel shows us that all are people to be loved. Men and women were made in God’s image, not our own.
Christians are not to associate themselves with a culture that views itself above other cultures. We must live a life that looks forward to the second coming of Christ, and all of the ethnicities represented.
Revelation 7:9 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands
So I finish by pleading with you to strive to erase the hatred and negative stereotypes associated with biological views of race and adopt an ethnolinguistic view of race instead, understanding people beyond their color and seeing them for the image of God inside them.