Saturday, April 11, 2009

Neither Jew nor Greek

Yesterday my 12-year-old daughter was filling out a survey while we were riding in the car. She piped up from the backseat, asking: "Mom, am I of Spanish background?" A couple seconds later she asked: "Am I white?" Hearing these questions my wife told our daughter that she was glad that she had to ask these questions because it was a sign that ethnic or racial background has little significance to her. The question of being black, white, Asian, Hispanic or anything else simply is irrelevant to our daughter.

There's a lot of talk these days about eliminating racism from society and overcoming ethnic differences. Yet the funny thing is that the solutions offered often seem to amplify racial or ethnic distinctions. Recently our local university announced that it was going to merge the six (6!) distinct minority student centers on campus as a cost-saving measure. The administration also defended the move by saying that it would be able to provide better service this way. The outcry was quite strong though, as each group argued that its members would be disenfranchised or disadvantaged in some way by this move. For them, overcoming racial divisions seems to require that each racial group keep to itself and have its own unique support group. It seems to me that a single center for students (minority or otherwise) would be better for promoting interaction and ethnic understanding, regardless of the cost savings.

I agree with my wife in saying that I'm glad my daughter doesn't pay attention to racial or ethnic labels. Maybe this is a result of having lived in three different cultures already in her life. I hope it is also a result of how we handle the subject in our own home. I would love to see the church become a place where the color of one's skin or the group in which one grew up had no significance concerning how each person was welcomed and valued. That's what the kingdom of God should look like. We had the privilege of attending a church that was moving in the right direction when we lived in Canada several years ago. The first time we entered the worship service we felt like we were the minority. Over time we saw that the community was a beautiful blend of Asians and Africans, Chinese and Koreans, whites and blacks and all sorts of others. That's one of the reasons I love this song from the Newsboys so much. The video in particular graphically depicts the unity we have in Christ.

I love Paul's admonition in Colossians 3:11: "Here there is Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all." (NIV) Again in Galatians 3:28-29 he states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (NIV)

I am not arguing that when we come to Christ we cease to be what we were as men or women, Asian, African, American or other. Obviously these realities are not undone by entering God's kingdom. But they are superceded. They no longer have the significance that we once gave them. The distinctions we like to make as humans lose their meaning in the face of the promise we have in Jesus Christ. In him we are made one. We are all heirs of God's promise of salvation. That is all that really matters. So let's put aside issues of race and ethnicity and gender and embrace people for who they are: unique and precious children of the most high God. Some have not yet acknowledged that reality, it is true. But the reality is there if they choose to embrace it. As far as I am concerned, the other differences really don't matter and I am glad that they don't matter to my children. May the day come quickly when they don't matter in our churches either.

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