There was an article on the internet this week titled, “Dear White Christian America: Jesus Wasn’t a White Surfer Dude”, and if I am hearing the writer correctly then the History Channel, the producers of “The Bible” miniseries, and anyone else who dares to portray or conceive of Jesus as “a white surfer dude with blue eyes, long flowing hair, and tanned and toned skin” is most likely racist, right-wing, Christian dominionist (?), Republican, and/or has succumbed to the “power of internalized white supremacy.” Pshaw! And here I thought I was being too critical for thinking they were taking a little too much editorial liberty for my liking!
I am a racial/ethnic mixture of black, polish jewish and chinese… just from my mom and dad, and to further complicate my children’s lives, I married a white man! Haaaaaah! I am known to embrace and celebrate all the above ethnicities, plus a few others especially when good food is involved. For years I checked “Other” (as in alien?) on questions of race, but lately there has been a new option, “Two or more races”, so now I just land right there. Yaaaaay! In some circles I am not black enough, or I am not white enough, or I am not ‘something else’ enough and once you get past any insecurity, …everyt’ing irie! (Jamaican for ‘It’s all good!’)
Maybe it helps that I was born and raised in Jamaica, where blacks are in the majority, everybody seems to be born feisty (could be the spices), and the National Motto is, “Out of many, one people”. From age thirteen on I grew up in a church that began as a chinese mission, is now led by a black senior pastor, with a congregation of blacks, whites, indians, chinese, and every combination of those races you could imagine. I have lived and worked in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the United States, with people of various religions, cultures and skin color and have learned that every last one of us has the capacity for racist thoughts, words and actions.
The choice to believe that any individual or group is superior and others inferior is not only determined by our ethnicity or the color of our skin, but by the condition of our hearts. Tremendous power has to be brought to bear against the self-serving desires, motives and values so intrinsic to our nature, that relentlessly drive every single one of us to seek to be higher than, better than, to have more than, …to be gods. The longer I live, the more I am convinced that the only final limitation on our capacity for evil is divine power and intervention.
For example, human beings exploiting and enslaving their fellow man did not begin or end with the African slave trade. Historical records from time immemorial all the way to this morning’s news prove that slaves and slave traders come in all shapes, colors and sizes; they just wear different clothes. In human relationships, it is sad that our first inclination is too often to rule over, dominate and establish superiority rather than to serve. Do you want to test the condition of someone’s heart or the ‘content of their character’? Give them any kind of power or authority over other people and see what they do with it. Jesus knew this when He warned His followers;
“…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 New International Version
Earlier He had clarified for them the real source of this and every other sin,
“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean…” Matthew 15:18-20
…backing up Jeremiah’s declaration hundreds of years earlier,
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10
“…the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
There is a song we would sing in Sunday school many…many… years ago:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
All are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Simple, maybe, but it conveys a truth that Peter discovered about God:
… “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34
Consider the new song John heard in his vision of heaven;
“‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth….’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’” Revelation 5:9-10, 13 (emphasis mine)
So here’s the thing, regardless of what the rest of society chooses do, every true follower of Jesus Christ must harness the available power of God to resist all sin; including our tendency to give or take offense, especially when it comes to racism, or any other form of prejudice. What we need to internalize is that God is primarily concerned with the state of our hearts, and He still loves every one of us; those who choose to love Him back, and those who are determined to disavow His existence, throw off His claim to our lives, spurn His commands, and waltz their willful, rebellious selves into the consequences of sin.
Whatever God calls sin, we too must call sin, no matter what color it comes packaged in, but that is not permission to be inconsiderate and insensitive, to go around slapping labels on people, or to take offense at every perceived slight when it is clear there was no intent whatsoever to offend. It is our responsibility to take a strong stand against every form of racism, and also to stand in support of every victim of racism or prejudice; the ones who are treated as if they are inferior, and those who are wrongfully accused of being racist…yes…the latter become victims too.
We are all equal because God made us equal, and if we truly believe in Jesus Christ, then we know there is coming a day when the eastern sky will open, heralding His triumphant return to planet earth and I personally will not care if He is blue with pink polka dots! We are all going to be with Him in the place He has been preparing for over two thousand years and I doubt very much that there will be any ethnic neighborhoods, so we had better just get over ourselves, purposefully embrace our diversity, and begin here and now… just living the thing.