Color matters

I hope by now we’re starting to realize being “color blind” isn’t an acceptable response to racial differences.

First of all it hasn’t worked. Primarily because it’s illogical and against our nature. We are acutely aware of the color of people’s skin, their accent, the creed they live by, their abilities, their address, their heritage. It’s impossible not to notice. So let’s stop saying silly things to make ourselves feel better! Not only is being “color blind” illogical, it’s foolish. Why would we strip ourselves of the human resource of diversity? Gracious! Can you imagine painting a picture with only the color white. Silly, just plain silly. We all lose if we don’t embrace the layers of joy, wisdom, and grandeur race brings to our lives. The human experience should never be flat, a cardboard cut out of a single ideal.

Which brings me to the underhanded aggression inherent in the phrase “I’m color blind.” Essentially what we’re saying is I forgive you for not being the same color as me, and I’ll even go so far as to pretend you’re not any color at all. Color blindness is certainly not a statement of appreciation of an individual or a community’s racial identity, at least not in this day and age. Being “color blind” is a way to let the black or tan or olive person standing in front of you off the hook for not being white. If someone told white people, “oh I’m color blind, I don’t even see your color,” we would be offended. We aren’t in need of such magnanimity, we aren’t in need of being let off the hook.

I’m going to confess something. Right out loud for you to judge. And I’m okay with that, it needs judging. I used to think, inwardly, subconsciously, “Oh that’s a nice black person, they seem almost white.” I shudder typing such a horrify thought right out there for you to read. Shudder. But it’s true, I have thought it. And I’m guessing it’s not really an uncommon thought. But, let’s be honest, broken thinking isn’t easy to fix. When you uproot the lie you have to then plant the truth or else you just have a void. Truth, so important!

One important truth to understand on this journey to embracing diversity, is the lie that racial issues are black people’s problems. The issue of race is humanity’s issue and it goes all the way back to the fall of man when our thinking was twisted by sin. The first generation, right after perfectly created Adam and Eve, experienced hate, suspicion, and murder. That’s what is naturally in our hearts. Unless our thinking is regenerated and straightened out it will be our default attitude toward our fellow man. In some ways race is both a blessing and a curse. Race highlights the beautiful creativity of God and his heart of inclusion.  Revelation 7:9 says, “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. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Can’t you feel the heart of God in these words? Even in heaven the diversity of people is kept intact. God is delighting in the redemption of all the earth and it’s unique people’s.

But the birth of diverse cultures came as discipline for prideful intention. At one time humanity used one language. In Genesis 9:1 God had told Moses and his son’s to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth.” Two chapters later it’s recorded that the people had gathered together in one area and were attempting to make a name for themselves. But that was in direct disobedience to God’s command, “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Instead of filling the whole earth they gathered in one area to lift themselves up, rather than lifting God up. I wonder if mankind had obeyed God if we wouldn’t all still speak a similar language. Maybe over time our language and dialects would have naturally changed. But is it possible God intended unity and diversity to coexist differently than they do today?

All of that is speculation, but it is interesting to see in scripture that God values unique people groups and yet some of our diversity came as a result of discipline for disobedience. No wonder we struggle. Ultimately, God’s gift of reconciliation, through his son, will affect all things.

As people who have been reconciled to God we should also be reconciled to each other, in every way. In Jesus there is no white or black, rich or poor, male or female, because when God looks on the redeemed he sees Jesus. That’s our standing with God, no matter who we are the ground is level. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t in actuality still quite unique. To ignore that fact is foolish and it’s also disrespectful of the reconciliation Jesus has purchased for us. He made a way for diverse people to become brothers, but we must work it out.

In this day of heated conversation about race we believers should be on the front line of meaningful, respectful dialogue. Our first role should be to listen. Listen to the hearts of people who have been wounded and devalued. Listen without judgement, opinion, or even response. Respectful silence goes a long way in soothing a heart and validating a story. Our second response should be to embrace reconciliation. At the heart of it reconciliation means to right a wrong, to repair. Ultimate reconciliation begins in Jesus.

14-15 “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-20 The Message

How can you be a part of reconciliation in your neighborhood, your community, your city? Do you have friends who are different than you? Do you have meaningful conversations with them about their experiences and how they feel? Do you seek to bridge the gap and lead the way in reconciling attitudes in your community and church? Maybe, like myself, you need to first confess wrong attitudes and a callus heart, and ask for understanding. That’s always a good place to start!

It’s your turn to chime in! Do you agree or disagree? What would you add to the conversation?

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2 thoughts on “Color matters

  1. I had not thought of the term “color blind” as a negative connotation. It makes sense. I’m trying to teach my children to not just look at color, but look at heart and character. That is what makes a person stand out, good or bad. I don’t care if a person is of a different color than me, but to be “color blind” is to naïve and oblivious to what’s going on in the world. We are all a mix of races and cultures. Everyone is unique. That is what God intended. We need to embrace the differences, as well as the similarities.

    • I agree, embracing the differences and similarities is necessary. I find my kids are so much quicker to see right to the heart of a person and past their exterior. They are in school with so many different kinds of children. I appreciate their willingness to friends with all kinds of people! I learn a lot from them.

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