“I don’t even see color!” He said from the pulpit as he gazed into the sea of his ivory-skinned congregation. The news had been rippling with stories of unarmed men being shot and killed for what one side said was no reason and another side touted was deserved.
His heart was good–or so he meant it to be. He meant He didn’t discriminate based on color. But He forgot that earlier that week, He texted His wife “I love you. So much,” on the plane when a caramel skinned man with a head covering sat behind him. He forgot that he clutched his wallet a little tighter when a dark-skinned man got on the elevator with him. He forgot that he winced when his daughter brought home a boy who looked like he was from the “dangerous” neighborhood.
You see, he very much saw color. But he knew that God didn’t care. Even if he secretly did. Even if he didn’t even realize he did.
He usually didn’t realize it when he praised himself for being colorblind.
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After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
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The anecdote before this verse is the unfortunate reality of many of us white Christians in America. We tend to only think through our own lense, forgetting to look into the sea of people of different colors, backgrounds, and cultures and remember that there is a story that falls behind each face. A story largely defined by the first thing people see of them: their skin.
John looked. John saw people from varying places. He saw their differences. He saw their beauty. He marveled that people from such diverse places with such distinctive experiences cried to Jesus in one loud voice.
How did John know that the people were from different places? Do you think it was perhaps because he could see their color? He could see the different tones of melanin that danced through the heavens? And if so, why could he see them? Why was that something he noticed?
Oh, Christian, I have heard you say time and time again how well-meaning you are. I have said time and time again how well-meaning I am.
Before I met and eventually married an African-American man, I had no idea that me saying that I don’t see color was actually blocking my heart from recognizing my own sin of prejudice.
You and I do see color. In fact, it is the very first thing we see. We are prideful and prone to notice differences between us. So let’s start by recognizing that and why we should run from our color-blindness and toward the celebration of color.
First, it does not help us share the Gospel. God providentially ordained that there would be differences in races and culture to display His glory. Therefore, it will take different people with different experiences sharing the same Gospel to reach certain ears. That’s how He created it. He wants to use us individually. Ignoring that fact would be ignoring the unity of His Gospel.
Second, it does not help us in unity. If you’re anything like me, you love to listen to a good choir or singing group. When multiple different voices harmonize together, it creates a certain reverberation that is gorgeous. The same can be with the Church. When we are willing to listen to the different experiences, when we are willing to hear out the heart that is deeply hurt by the Michael Brown case and not talk back, we are walking toward unity that will reverberate the Gospel through this world like nothing we have seen before.
Here’s what seeing color helps us to do: empathize, unify, and go.
Seeing color helps us empathize with our brothers and sisters of color as best we can. (Romans 12:15)
When I look at my husband, I do not first think, “oh, that’s my black husband.” I see him first as a man whom I love deeply. A man who is made in the image of God. Yet I would be naive not to see the scars that he has borne because of the color of his skin. I would be looking past the pain and the evil looks and the fear that he has been subjected to because of the melanin he was born with.
I would be assuming that no one will ever call my child the n-word one day because they bear his skin.
I would also be looking past the unique ability he has to share the Gospel with the oppressed.
Seeing color helps us unify in the brokenness of this world.
My husband says it perfectly: Slavery in America was a nuclear bomb. It already happened, but its effects are cancerous and continue to this day.
White sisters and brothers, we cannot continue ignoring that racism is something that very much affects our day-to-day lives, and much more, the lives of our friends of color. My father-in-law was integrated into a white school. That is one–only one–generation above me.
Neighborhoods are still segregated, not because of a law, but because of fear.
We have to stop using slavery as our definition of racism. If the systematic kidnapping and enslavement of an entire group of people is our marker for what racism is, we have set the bar horrifyingly low, my friends.
Let’s stop ignoring our past and start unifying over God’s faithfulness in the midst of man’s monstrous wickedness.
Seeing color helps us move forward.
So I am calling you to stop saying “I don’t see color,” and start recognizing the awful discrimination that has and is part of the history of this land we worship. People owned people with dark skin. People used OUR Bible to convince men and women created in the image of God that they were a cursed pile of flesh no good for anything except slavery.
Look upon people of color and recognize the tendencies you have to clutch your purse tighter or pretend you’re on the phone or whatever else you do out of fear.
Recognize it and then do something about it.
In the same way that we cannot turn from our sins of lying or lust without first acknowledging them, we cannot turn from our silent sins of prejudice and racism without acknowledging them.
Don’t look at your congregation and say, “I don’t see color.” Say instead, “Let us celebrate color!” Let us use our differences as Gospel sharing methods. Let us stop pretending that the horrors of Slavery and Jim Crow didn’t happen, and let us start allowing them to demonstrate our own need for Christ.
I don’t want my children to grow up in the same world my husband did. My heart wants desperately for them to be treated just as everyone else by everyone else.
That will not happen unless we stop clutching our pride arguing our own righteousness and start listening to voices coming from lips of skin unlike our own.