We all are different colors, aren’t we? People would say that I am a white person, but no one is really white when compared to a piece of copy paper. I may be light-skinned, but I’m technically not white-skinned. I do have some color in my pigmentation, thank you very much! The little song about all children being loved by God contains this phrase, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” This suggests that Native Americans may have a reddish tint in their skin color and Asians may have a yellowish tint in theirs. Black and white may seem self-explanatory, but almost unlimited variations of color are a part of these two basic shades. Why, then, are we different colors? It is primarily an issue of sunlight and vitamins – but keep reading! It is much, much more than chemistry.
Does It Matter?
Does it matter, the color of one’s skin? Yes and no – and both answers have a positive side and a negative side. Yes, it matters in ways that it shouldn’t. If skin color causes some people to feel superior or inferior to those of a different color, then that is bad, very bad. And we are dealing with more than the difference in what we call races. People of color, be they primarily brown or darker, can feel inferior or superior to those in their same race classification because they let color matter to them – different shades of color in this case. I have heard or read of those who felt that their particular skin shade was too black or too dark, and it is no secret that such variations make a difference with some. Lighter is generally considered better, and that is sad. It shouldn’t matter, but it sometimes does, to some at least.
On the positive side, it matters in a different way. If we view ourselves as God’s creation, we should be proud of our skin color. As the little boy in the old illustration purportedly said, “God made me and God don’t make no junk!” I’m not sure why he said that, but in spite of his grammar, his point was entirely correct. I have often said that I am not colorblind except in assessing the equal value of all people. Otherwise, my goal is to be color aware and color appreciative. After saying that in sermons, I have had black people thank me with tears in their eyes, saying that they don’t want their color to be discounted but rather valued. Saying you are colorblind may not be viewed positively, in spite of your intentions. I get it. We should be proud of who God made us, and that includes our color, our ethnicity, our gender and all else that makes us who we are as individuals.
Haters Gonna Hate!
Having said that, our color differences account for historical challenges beyond comprehension, especially in the United States. Our history of slavery in earlier days and all forms of racial oppression since has marked us as a society. We are working our way to better places, but right now we are in the midst of a very challenging place. A white person can lose their job or even their company (think pizza!) by using a racial slur publicly. Yet, racial tensions are the highest since the Civil Rights era a half-century ago. How does that happen?
It happens because human beings, the very apex of God’s creation, are a fallen people. The sins of Adam and Eve have carried consequences with them since the dawn of creation. We know how to love to an appreciable degree and we know how to hate to a similar degree. Our differences in every area are often the catalyst prompting that hate. We can tone the term down a bit and call it bias or prejudice, but it resides in every one of us in some way, often in ways of which we are not aware. It may be based on color differences, background differences, language differences, religious differences, educational differences, economic differences, nationality differences, political differences, gender differences, etc. The list of ways that our prejudices can manifest themselves are virtually endless.
I was attending a class on racial diversity a few months back, and after some US residents described the black and white challenges we experience in this country, an African man described similar challenges between different tribes in his country – where everyone in those tribes is black. Further, the dangers of being of a different tribe in the wrong place at the wrong time were greater in that country than being black or white in our country in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a scary description, to put it mildly.
So what does this show? That haters are gonna hate! Listen to Paul describe our pre-Christian condition: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Thankfully, he goes on in the next verses to describe the difference being in a relationship with Christ makes. This contrast explains why this blog is dedicated mainly to helping Christians deal with their sins, especially prejudices, including racial prejudices of which we may not be conscious (whether we are black or white or brown).
The world is going to hate – it always has and always will. Until and unless people accept Christ and his way of viewing others, people don’t change. Congress might legislate consequences for outward actions, but they cannot legislate the same for thoughts and attitudes. Society can only be changed in those areas one person at a time through Christ. Having said that, I do not believe that just because one becomes a Christian, some kind of magic eraser comes and deals with race and racial issues. We have further to go than we think in building true diversity in our church culture, which must encompass our attitudes and relationships inside and outside of our church assemblies.
Why Are We Different Colors?
We can probably all agree that this is a good question, even an important one. I believe that is hugely important, for it affects our view of God, the world and every person in it. No wonder Satan has worked so hard and so effectively to hide the truth from us! Hopefully the following explanations in Parts 2 and 3 will help us in exchanging the mistaken parts of our views for God’s views regarding the answer to this question. I love the answers that I am writing about in the remainder of this series, and I’m excited and elated to share them! Part 2 will be coming in a few days, so be looking for it!
Answer #1 – The Nature of God
God is Creator, yes? As you look at his creation, what do you see – drabness, ugliness, boringness, monotonousness, dullness? That’s not what I see. I see amazing diversity in all of nature. How could God have stifled his creative genius and made everything look the same? Consider any part of creation and you will see diversity almost beyond human comprehension. Take the birds, for example. How many kinds and how many colors and how many shapes do you see? More than you can count. More than even an ornithologist can count, with all due respect to you birders out there. Take flowers, for another example. How many kinds, colors, shapes are in God’s creation? You can add for consideration trees, plants, grasses, cats, dogs, horses, cows, all types of wild animals. And what do you get? Diversity to what seems to us mortals the nth degree!
Now think about human beings, the crowning achievement of our Maker in exercising his marvelous creative abilities. Would it have not been astoundingly weird for him to have made us all look the same? All with the same skin color, eye color, height, bone structure, etc. etc.? Even a very small amount of common sense should tell us that the differences in humans, including skin color, are a logical necessity when God’s creative genius is taken into consideration. We should delight in human varieties as much (more actually) than we do in the other varieties in nature.
The idea of different races is a false concept, as we will show later in the article. But different ethnicities and cultures are a reality, and I rejoice over them. They give us so many different types of food, drink, music, dance, and so on. As a nation, the United States once took pride in being the melting pot of many nations. In retrospect, that viewpoint was far more restricted than our earlier forefathers realized, but that doesn’t devalue the concept as it relates to my point. However, we should be totally aware of the fact that most of the “melting” that went on during much of our national history consisted of white people. The story of how people of color, all colors, became a part of the process is, for the most part, a painful consideration. But I love the human diversity in our nation and I really love and cherish the diversity in our fellowship of churches. I just want to help broaden it from having diversity in our official church gatherings to having cultural diversity in more and more unofficial social gatherings and in our close friendships.
Answer #2 – The Purposes of God
God loves humans and wants us to be with him for eternity. Wow! Read that again and think about it. Lauren Daigle’s song title comes to mind immediately – “How Can It Be?” Yet, it is true that God loves us beyond our comprehension to grasp and does indeed want us with himself for eternity. In order for that to become a reality, we must be saved spiritually – forgiven of all of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ, redeemed by his blood. God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
If that is his ultimate desire and design for us humans, how does he go about accomplishing it? Actually, in many ways. Fundamental to our study in this article, one of those ways is tied inseparably to the concept of diversity. In an earlier blog post on this site, I wrote an article entitled, “The Theological Centrality of True Racial Diversity.” Here are a few excerpts from that article:
The greatest demonstration of Christ through his spiritual body, the church, in the first century was the ability to blend two cultures, Jew and Gentile, who absolutely hated one another. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the application that the ability to totally blend (not just mix a bit on Sunday morning) black and white cultures is the greatest possible demonstration of Jesus in our day. Further, if working out the kinks between two groups of Jewish culture in Acts 6 produced a response of converting large numbers (even priests), just what could happen if our movement led the way in having true spiritual diversity?
What is the biggest deterrent to love, unity and growth (spiritual and numerical)? Hate – Satan’s greatest tool to produce the kinds of horrific actions taking place in the world today and in world history. What is the greatest demonstration of love, unity and growth? Whatever defeats hate – the greatest kind of hate. Surely overcoming racism would be near or at the top of that list. So how did God choose to do that, thus setting up a demonstration that would have the potential to affect the world?
Easy answer: the Jew/Gentile form of racism and hatred. Hence, we are not surprised to read that the biggest threat to love and unity in the early church was how to get Jews and Gentiles into one family and to get them to understand, appreciate and love each other against all odds. God calls it his mystery to change the world. Read the following passages with this principle in mind: Ephesians 2:14-22; Ephesians 3:2-6; and, Colossians 1:24-27.
Bottom line, the more our goals on earth reflect our vision of heaven, the greater our fellowship will be and the more effective our evangelistic efforts will be. The church of the living God is the ultimate demonstration of Jesus and the heart of God, but it has to have as a major goal what Scripture defines as the mystery of Christ. One of my black reviewers made this observation: “I hope you can make people, especially the leaders, see how we have a field of dreams concept here with race. If we can be a light in dealing with racism, people will come to us.” In order for God’s kingdom in heaven to look like Revelation describes it, then we must pull out all of the stops to ensure that it looks like this in his kingdom on earth. God – open our eyes and hearts!
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.