I GET WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. I’ve heard many people say this over the years. Heavens, I’ve said it myself. But here’s why I believe it is wrong (or at least careless) to use this term “colorblind” when relating to people from a different racial group, along with my proposed solution.
** What people mean is probably something like this: I don’t judge anybody based on their skin color.
** What people are usually saying – but probably not meaning – is this: I don’t care about your racial background. Your story is in the past just like mine. Let’s just move along and forget the past.
I’m in a ministry with a passionate black brother who is full of energy, Biblical knowledge, and talent. I often refer to him as the “fireworks” of our ministry, and I’m the – ahem – older one of us. I’m enjoying learning his STORY. Who he is. Where he came from, who his family is, what they believe, what vision and passion he has for our future. And I’m not sure I’ve ever met a more singularly talented individual. But he has a story… and everyone of my brothers and sisters in Jesus has a story.
God’s word says this by the pen of Paul: …you have been renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility… (Colossians 3:10-11)
I met an older middle-aged white fellow walking down my street the other day: short, skinny, with a limp. Hair all grown over his ears, puffing a cigarette, and he asked me if I needed any help weeding my flower beds. I even asked if he had a business card, and he gave me a slip of paper which he had written his name and number. “I’m happy to give you a bid to do that work, sir” he said. I kindly told him that I intend to do it, but the weather and schedule hasn’t allowed me to do it yet. I felt the demon of harshness/judgment/bigotry rearing his head. He’s a harmless guy; who may not be well educated, not on top of the financial heap, and not socially savvy. But the man has a STORY that would explain who he is, if I would only get to know it. How dare I look at him and think I’m somehow better than him.
When we say we are COLORBLIND, we quickly cop out. We don’t mean to do it.
In fact, the opposite is true; we mean well. The story of our black brothers and sisters is a deep and powerfully influential heritage. It’s a story of rich culture, triumph, celebration, oppression, and a curvy road that was filled with heinous evils leading to the present time. But you might read this and say, “I didn’t vote for separate bathrooms, water fountains, or neighborhoods.” And of course, hardly anyone today did. But the ugly past is unfortunately ALL of our past. While those days of inequality are largely behind us from a legal sense, institutionally, these things sometimes still occur in society. In its largest sense, I wholeheartedly praise God that Dr. King’s dream is largely realized: that little white boys and girls and black boys and girls in Alabama would be “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” But we have a lot of work to do. When we discount the past and write it off, we show disrespect to the valuable journey of our brothers and sisters who have become who they are BECAUSE OF IT.
Some people may read this and feel they don’t meet this description at all; they truly do embrace others. But what often happens leaves an unintended consequence; we classify by writing-off. We don’t embrace one another. We don’t get to know each other. We don’t understand each other’s stories, each other’s hardships, each other’s unique personhood, family history, and background. We maintain our distinctions, and keep our “other” cultures.
The church is a place of broken-down-barriers, or rather – it should be. It is a place where the love of Christ shines, and the face of Christ is seen in our actions toward one another. Here is my recommendation for specifically Caucasian Americans who long to see reconciliation and equality in fellowship:
- Live with a humble, sympathetic tone.
This doesn’t mean WE, as modern white Americans are literally guilty for the evils of our past. But it may mean that we’ve perpetuated them ourselves. Repent of those sins. Put YOUR past behind you, and FULLY EMBRACE your brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus’ way is the better way; and it is greater than our past… whatever it is.
- Learn your brother and sister’s STORY.
This isn’t just limited to racial differences, but all sorts of cultural differences on which we allow caveats to limit our fellowship. “So-and-so is a drug addict. She is a terrible mother.” “So-and-so is a drunk, and he always will be.” “So-and-so is a hot-head and talks to his family in a sinful, despicable way, and doesn’t embody Christ.” “So-and-so is a racist, and he can’t possibly change.” Everybody has a story. There is pain, difficulty, and sometimes habitual sin utilized in trying to cope with the past and the present. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, and the only means of bringing a person out of it is the unquestionable love of Christ being shown to that person.
- Clothe yourselves with the character of Jesus.
Put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be long-suffering. We live in a time when that word – and it’s meaning – has become lost to us. We don’t even suffer each other SHORT. I saw a Facebook video from here in town just 2 day ago, where some macho 4×4 driving country boys literally passed a guy and stopped, put it in park, and got out of the truck to walk toward a driver whom they were going to “handle” – whatever they intended to do. The guy slammed it in reverse and drove around them to avoid an altercation. Christ-followers must be the example of mature long-suffering for the world to see.
LASTLY, understand that the story of people is the story of all of us. This applies to both sides of the discussion. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross of Calvary to wash away the sins of every. single. man. woman. child. who ever walks the soil of the earth.
If I go in the hospital and need blood; I get AB-. I don’t limit that – nor would I ever – by language, race, sexual preference, or any other distinction. I need blood to live. AND HERE’S THE IRONY… One man shed blood for all humanity. To love, forgive, and bring the message of love and life to the rest of the world. We drink it every Sunday and swear to walk in a manner worthy of that calling. But do we?
In a time when the silliest things separate humans, let us in the church unite behind the blood of Jesus to love and forgive. The power of a changed life, and forgiveness of sins is the most powerful emancipation of all history. Being shackled by hatred, bigotry, and judgmentalism has caused more problems than the world can ever count.
I beg you to consider these words, and consider using language of adoption. The church is a collective of sanctified people, who have all been fixed of their brokenness. Adopt your brother and sister as YOUR OWN. Let’s not perpetuate the evils of the past by continuing to sin; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Colossians 3:15)