I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a middle-aged white guy. The racism dialogue in the past year has been a source of much division and controversy. I can’t change my default perspective, any more than I can change the ever more ancient birthdate on my driver’s license. Yet I can choose to broaden my perspective by listening and trying to understand the view of other’s experiences.
Which brings me to Black History Month. Honestly, I’m not really well informed about it. I didn’t know when it became a thing – had to look it up. It’s never been a topic of interest. While that wasn’t from malicious intent, I must admit it was at best a lack of concern for other perspectives. I’m white. “We don’t have a month.” Though I’ve never actually said that or consciously thought it – my actions and inactions betray my intent.
I’m sure some are cringing right now. Here we go. He’s drinking the critical race theory Koolaid. He’s fallen into white guilt and social justice Marxism. Actually, I’m beyond caring about stereotyping labels and name-calling. Take your best shot. It’s not like I don’t deserve criticism.
First and foremost, I’m a Jesus follower. Who gives a flip about social trends? Jesus was and is all about people. All people. “For God so loved the world…” – not just my world.
I recently got a new Bible. We started a new reading plan in January and so I’m catching up reading this new translation. Something from the story of Noah jumped out at me.
Genesis 9:4-5 (NET)
4 But you must not eat meat with its life (that is, its blood) in it.
5 For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative.
This translation reads, “From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative.” Although in my head, I already knew the concept of all humanity being related, it hadn’t reached my heart yet. His relative? That phrase really struck me. A more literal translation of the original Hebrew also shows the family connection… “from the hand of a man, his brother.”
Family. We are all family! Relatives. Related. Even secular science has proven a common ancestor among all humanity. People of faith believe it because the Bible says we all are descended from Noah and created in the image of God.
Imagine not celebrating your own family. Those who have experienced family divides know how tragic that is. “Well, if we are all one then why do we need to celebrate one particular group?” Ever heard a question like that? It sounds a lot like the elder brother in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
The truth is, though we are all equal in Jesus, the distinctions in races and ethnicities aren’t ignored in Scripture. Equal doesn’t mean that we ignore the differences. We also shouldn’t ignore the challenges and historical mistreatment of our own family.
I’m determined to know more about my family. To honor both the struggles and the accomplishments of those who are different from me. I’ve already learned a lot of history that I simply hadn’t been exposed to. There are many great stories and inspiring lives that were never even on my radar. I’m better off knowing more about all of my human family.
What I believe about eternity is that we will spend it with Jesus. That eternal Kingdom isn’t some monolithic gathering of likeness. The glimpses we have are of incredible and beautiful diversity. Revelations 7 is a vision of every nation, tribe, people, and language praising God around the throne. That’s what Heaven looks like.
Why don’t our churches look like that? Why doesn’t my social feed look like that? Why doesn’t my life look like that?
Maybe because I’ve only celebrated part of my family, and unintentionally separated from the rest.
I resolve to do better, and it starts with celebrating and honoring Black History Month. It’s good practice for what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like!