Over the past week, I've experienced tremendous hurt for every human being affected by racism in our country. Specifically, I'm referencing the Baltimore riots and a social media outbreak on my college campus.
While I join the emotionally wounded in their afflictions, I struggle with a more pressing issue than racism. The primary cause for racism's active presence in our country stems from our celebration of race and racial identity. As a whole, we've placed the two on a pedestal and made them the center of our worship at times.
I'm all for celebrating history, but why do we set aside a month each year for a certain race? Hear me out, I'm not concerned with the race we celebrate; rather, I'm wondering about the races we don't celebrate and why this particular race is only celebrated one month of the year. If African-American history was an integral aspect of American history, and it is, why can't we agree to celebrate it every month of every year? We argue for equality, but can't even agree on national holidays regarding race.
Maybe, there's a problem regarding race, which hasn't crossed enough minds yet. What if race was just a way to label one another for the creation of predisposed judgments? What if racial identity wasn't God's design for our identification? What if we've undermined our very existence?
Here's the argument I want to propose...in the eyes of God, racism exists, but race does not.
To the extent of my understanding, race is a classification code humans use to find similarities and differences with certain people groups. If that's the case, then wouldn't racism simply be acting on our predispositions of other people? Clearly, racism means to act out of God's design for humanity, but did He intend for us to assimilate in the first place?
In the Genesis Creation narrative, the author described our identity in three verses:
"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them."
Based on this text, God made man in His image. Essentially, this means his intention for us involves being in relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (that's why God said to make man in "our" image). Then, the author included the classifications of male and female. Race never entered the Creation conversation. Lastly, God blessed humanity the intricate way He designed us.
If we are all made in the image of God, male and female, how did God design for us to be classified? For humanity, this is one of the coolest aspects of the entire Bible. Because we are made in the image of God, we are created to reflect God's design in our unity. We were called into one body and one race under the sole authority of God.
The apostle Paul explained this articulately in his letter to the church of Ephesus:
"There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..."
Ephesians 4:4-6; 11-13
I like how Paul thinks. Based on his writing, race isn't in the Creation conversation or the New Testament conversation because God's design for humanity is greater than skin color or ethnic heritage. Rather, he insists on joining with humans, regardless of gender or skin color, in the faith and in our knowledge of the Gospel, which records Jesus' death and resurrection for the sake of our salvation.
So, if race shouldn't be worshipped, why is racism still prevalent? One thing we must understand involves seeing the fractured world we live in. Because of sin, we will encounter sinful acts. They won't be fair. They won't be right. They won't be just. Yet, they should be faced with love and truth.
The apostle Paul continued writing in the former letter about this by saying:
"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow that it builds itself up in love."
Because there's an abundance of sin in our world, there's an abundance of hurt, too. However, the Gospel promises where an abundance of sin exists, an overabundance of grace stills. I'm not talking about the artificial comfort we feel from celebrating our skin color. I'm talking about the authentic, peace-like armor God gives us in the midst of these riots and outbreaks.
Those who have joined in unity under God's great design understand that they are forgiven people. However, I've seen forgiven people act without forgiveness. The more we cry foul on each other’s faults, while asking for peace with the same breath, the more fuel we add to the fire. My job is not to justify; that’s God’s job. Instead, my job is to love, and it’s yours, too.
Let's change the way our world operates by choosing to identify as forgiven people and to act as forgiving people.
Until we realize God is the author of peace and not confusion, we will not know true peace. Sure, wars may end and news streams may slow down; but, is that really peace? Sounds more like tolerance to me.
God's design for humanity wasn't tolerance, but loving community. What if the multitude of races and cultures glorifies how big our God is? What if God's design for His Kingdom includes diversity without exchanging our identities for a lesser one?
What if racism derives from how we view God more than how we view people?
Think about it...if we viewed God beautifully, wouldn't we view His creation beautifully, too? The problem rests itself on our view of God as useful, not beautiful. Because we don't see God's design as beautiful, and we want to take our identity into our own hands in the forms of race, sexuality, and individuality, we don't see God as beautiful. Instead, he's just handy. He's not actually here, fighting our battles for us. He's over there, driving the ambulance to the accident scene. That's how horrific our view of God has become.
I love how Bear Rineheart, the lead singer of the band Needtobreathe, praises God's design in his song, "Multiplied":
"God of mercy, sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to Your design. May this offering stretch across the skies and these hallelujahs be multiplied."
Let's choose to embrace God's identity for us. Instead of classifying ourselves by our race, let's identify ourselves with His grace. He's created us, male and female alike, to be human beings after His heart. God could care less about the color of our skin. No skin color can mask a broken heart longing for God's fulfilling love. That's what He's after.
How awesome would it be if we were known not for our skin color, but for our love? I don't want people to remember me because I'm white-skinned. I want to be remembered for how well I loved people regardless of their skin color, and you should, too.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love...We love because he first loved us."
1 John 4:7-8; 19
Race and racism were never a part of God's design for humanity; yet, love is. Love always has been and always will be. Because God reconciled us by His love, we can reconcile with one another. Let's choose to look upon one another with love, by embracing the beauty of diversity made in God's image, and glorify our Creator in doing so.