By Lacy Crowell
The other day a good friend of mine was at the store with her son. As they were shopping, a lady stopped them and asked, “Aw, how old is your son?” To which my friend responded, “He’s three.” The lady then proceeded to ask, “And how long have you had him?” This question really threw my friend for a loop––what was she talking about? Then the light bulb went on. My friend is white; her son is black. Therefore the lady at the store automatically assumed he was adopted. He really is her biological son, and it’s disturbing to think that if he had been just a little bit older he would have been able to follow that conversation. How cruel to make judgments based on external features. (As a side-note, adoption is a wonderful thing, but more on that later.)
Sometimes I fear that as humanity the first thing we notice will always be skin color. I pray that this has gotten better in the last several decades, but I’m afraid it will always be a problem. What bothers me the most, however, is that this is also still a problem in the church.
I have had several Christians say things to me such as, “I’m not prejudiced, but…” and then go right on to make a very prejudiced statement! I have seen white Christian parents furious with their daughter when they found out she was dating a black young man, even though he was also the only Christian young man her age in the area! I have seen black congregations, Hispanic congregations, and white congregations who are equally content to keep things just as they are. I have seen black Christians who are preachers refuse to apply for jobs with white congregations. I have also seen brethren of other minorities whose first passion is to promote their culture and second passion is to promote the cause of Christ. Sisters, this should not be the case!
Prejudice is bad enough in the world, but it is intolerable in the church! This is exactly what Paul was dealing with in Galatians 3:25-28. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all one! We are all equal! We are all the same!
I jokingly call myself an American mutt, because my fleshly heritage is quite diverse. I am part American Indian, German, Irish, and Black Dutch predominately. Each of these are tremendously varied cultures, and that is fascinating to me. I enjoy looking into my physical heritage and the cultures each of them represent. However, my identity is in Christ! My mission is to spread the Gospel!
In Christ, nothing else matters. Ephesians 2:18-21 reads, “For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” If we are Christians, our identity is not found in our heritage or the color of our skin; it is found in Christ! As Christians, we need to remember that we are not bodies with souls, we are souls with bodies (C.S. Lewis). If we do that, prejudice will no longer be an issue in the church, and we won’t even notice skin color anymore, which is exactly as God intended it.
When talking to others about this issue, people have said to me, “Well, even God didn’t want the Jews marrying other races!” This is true and false. In both the Old and New Testaments, God set forth a very firm dividing line for His people in regards to marriage. This line, however, was not skin color or culture as many would like to claim; God’s line on marriage is religion. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” Many have said to me that this passage doesn’t apply to marriage because marriage is not in the context. My answer to this is once again yes and no. Is marriage specifically mentioned in the context? No. But would this passage still apply? I think so! A yoke is something that binds oxen together. What greater bind is there in our worldly relationships than that of marriage?
Paul makes his point even more clear in 1 Corinthians 7:39: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” Here Paul blatantly says that a widow can only remarry in the Lord. If this is the case for widows, who may have already reared their children, how much more would this apply to those who are just beginning to search for their mates and start their families?
The book of Ezra gives us a heartbreaking account of why God wishes His people to only marry those of the same faith. In Ezra, the people of Israel have been freed from oppression, and many had taken pagan wives. Ezra 9:14 tells us that this was a problem because of the abominations these pagans committed. It had nothing to do with skin color or race; it was lifestyle and beliefs. As the family of God, we need to make sure that we are only drawing the lines that God Himself drew, and that we are following the guidelines God has given us.
Another heart-breaking example of prejudice in the church today is seen with adoption. Through friends and family members, I have been blessed with exposure to many pregnancy crisis centers, adoption facilities, and orphanages run by the Lord’s church. What an amazing opportunity! It was heartbreaking, however, to learn that the majority of these facilities adopt out as many or more babies to non-Christians than to Christians. You automatically ask, “Why?!” One answer is a lot of these babies are biracial, and oftentimes members of the Lord’s church won’t adopt them. I suggest to you that our Heavenly Father would say that there is no such thing as a “biracial” baby; we are all of the same race––the human race.
Sisters, from the time our children are old enough to talk we teach them the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” “Jesus loves the little children. all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
When we teach our children this song then say, “We don’t worship with them––they are a different color,” we are hypocrites. When we teach this song then say “I will not adopt this baby because he is a different color,” we are hypocrites. When we sing this song then tell our children that they cannot marry someone with a different skin color, we are hypocrites. We are drawing lines that God has not drawn (Revelation 22:18-20 makes clear the severity of adding to or taking away from the Word of God). When we look at people and see skin color not a soul, we are hypocrites drawing lines that God has not drawn.
We are all familiar with the conflict between Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament church and the havoc it created throughout the first century church. We are all different. We have different eyes, skin color, hair color, heights, weights, cultural backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, and even family backgrounds and traditions. But we are just that––family. We are all also the same. We are all souls with bodies, and the physical appearance of that body doesn’t make any difference. I encourage us all from this day forward to put aside these differences and celebrate the oneness we have in Christ!
Red, Brown, Yellow, Black and White
By Lacy Crowell