"What Is Your Race?"
This was the question posed to me during my mini-physical/questionnaire at my last apheresis appointment with my local American Red Cross donation center. The lady reciting this question, who was African-American, then began listing the qualifying answers from which I was to select what I felt best described me: American Indian, Black, White, Asian, etc…. It was not a new question to me, nor do I believe it to be unfamiliar to you, but on that day I would respond differently to that question than I ever had during all of my previous medical appointments up to that point.
"Human," I replied.
The eyes of the Red Cross worker lit up, and then a smile broke across her face. “That’s right, Michael!” she said with affirmation. Her enthusiastic reaction to my simple response told me that perhaps she had yet to ever hear of such a reply from a presumably “white” person, and the few sentences that we shared following my short answer allowed me to experience a connection with this fellow human being that societal “identities” had done much hurt in fostering. Now, it was not my intention simply to be cute with my response. Rather, by answering the way I did I was professing a conviction that God has branded on my heart and mind, and that I believe He has explicitly laid out in Scripture for all of us to treasure.
Our True Roots.
The Bible is clear in its teaching about from where/who we all descend. From the opening pages of Genesis we understand that every man and woman (“Red, Yellow, Black, and White”) descends from two individuals, Adam and Eve. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t record for us what skin color this couple had, but I do imagine it was a bit darker than the flannel graph depictions that I remember when I was growing up... Anyhow, the point is that if you were to ask our greatest ancestors what “race” they were, their response would not be as ambiguous or diverse as our modern society would like for it to be. From my understanding of the world I live in, especially given the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, there are still those who actually believe that some people are less human than themselves simply based on the pigmentation of their skin. Sadly, such thinking neglects the fact that race is not determined by skin color, culture, or experience, a fact that even believers fail to appreciate. You see, when the Bible uses racial terminology (see Mark 7:26 for example) it is making a stronger ancestral reference than it is a cultural statement. Why make such a big deal about this specific terminology, you ask? Because I think it has a profound influence on how we impact those around us who are different than we are. Though we may have different cultures and experiences, we are all from one set of ‘greatest’ grandparents.
All that being said, what does it really mean to be “Human?” Perhaps you’ve never thought about what it really is that sets us apart as a distinct race from the rest of creation. Again, we find our answer in the first pages of Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) Here we see what God so delicately wove into the essence of our being: humans, every single one of them, are God’s image-bearers. Male, female, “white,” “black,” born, and unborn. This is who we all are equally at our core, and even the self-identifying atheist is an image-bearer of the God he seeks to defy. Settle for nothing less. You, reader, have a very special definition.
Now that I’ve affirmed that there are no true racial distinctions within the essence of humanity (because of our ultimate heritage), I think it’s important to admit that the Bible actually does make a “racial” distinction... Throughout the Bible we read of God making reference to His people as a distinct “race” because they have been “born again” and have become the spiritual “descendants” of God through faith. The good news is that we all have been given this adoption through faith in Jesus Christ, but the fact of the matter is that not everyone has the faith… There are still two distinctions that remain: you are either a child of God through faith in Christ, or you are of the children of this world. Ultimately, the conflict we see in the world that find their cause in “racial” differences are just a picture of our hostility towards God in our sin. With every label we seek to hide our identity in other than in Christ, we contribute to the tailspin of human depravity which has sought to further divide itself over and over again.
The way we seek to identify ourselves in this world speaks mightily of who we understand ourselves to be. The Word of God gives us great confidence in knowing how we can, and should, relate to one another because of who God has made us to be. During a time in our society that is plagued with division and disillusionment about who we really are as a race, I hope that we are reminded of the unifying hope that is found in the truth of the Word of God and the Person of Jesus Christ.
Michael Conn is the Assistant Pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Columbus, OH. You can follow him on Instagram @conngrats
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