My name is Ameen. I’ve been saved for eight years. I’m reformed and I’m black.
My family loves people from all races, so ethnocentrism was never a struggle during my growing up years. For the most part, I was open to making friends with people regardless of their skin color, race or background.
After the Lord saved me, I soon discovered a magnificent truth through reading verses like Galatians 3:28: “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.” I was overjoyed to learn that God truly sees everyone – no matter our race – as one in the same in Christ. He doesn’t show favoritism towards his children.
Disinterest in Race
Overjoyed that God shows favoritism to neither race, nor class, nor ethnicity, I simply forgot about my race. In my excitement that we all are part of the human race, I dismissed the fact that God had created me as part of the African-American race. I wasn’t attempting to be another race, but simply lacked interest in my own. Whether it was learning about the history of my people, hearing from a black perspective or caring about black contemporary issues – I was simply disinterested.
As I encountered ethnocentrism in others, my disinterest only grew. Although my family didn’t champion our race over others, I had friends and even a couple family members who displayed ethnocentrism. Their worldviews and theologies were framed around the alleged superiority of their race. And I found myself in countless debates about black liberation theology and stereotypes of the white man. I, in turn, stayed far away from studying my race and from any interest in race relations. Furthermore, my theology and beliefs began to be framed around my efforts to confront and compensate for their ethnocentrism.
This mindset continued until I met my pastor, who showed me the importance of learning my people’s history and engaging in contemporary issues, especially within Christendom. In numerous conversations with him, not only was I discovering the importance of black modern day issues, but also the importance of race in general.
He showed me the error in my denial that racial tensions, stereotypes and systemic evils still exist and affect every race. And I learned that if I am to truly serve my multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-generational church, I must acknowledge and address this reality.
In the trenches of urban ministry are humans whose lives have been destroyed by sin – sin that is no respecter of race. But sin often affects races in respective ways. What kind of gospel can we offer people damaged by systemic evils affecting their particular races in particular ways? It certainly can’t be a gospel of denial.
By no means am I saying that we should put our own race above God’s command for us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Nor am I saying that our involvement in our own race relations should cause us to neglect looking “to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). We each must certainly “count others more significant” than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), even outside of our own race(s). No race should hold any type of tribal elitism over any other race within Christendom.
God Created Race, Ethnicity and Culture
No matter our race or heritage, we must embrace the fact that God in his infinite wisdom, sovereignty and power has created different races, ethnicities, and cultures. He has governed them through different paths of history – both good and bad – all for His glory. This kind of beautiful, God-glorifying end, unfolded through the means of history is something that we must appreciate. When Paul addresses the Areopagus he states:
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and Kind him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)
God is diverse (think: three Persons, though one God) and one of the ways God shows his diversity is by making humans in his very image – humans of different races, languages and ethnicities.
Studying the diversity of humanity makes me appreciate the stunning diversity of humanity’s King. Acts 17 shows us that we have all come from one man, Adam. This leaves no room for racism or an ethnocentric poster for any race. In Acts 17, we also see God’s sovereignty over the histories of the nations. He has made every nation of mankind, and he has allotted and determined the periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. That includes not just Jews, Greeks and Assyrians, but also your ancestors and mine.
What about your nation and heritage? Is it something that you despise or look upon apathetically, even though God in his sovereign will has intentionally given it to you for his glory? Or is your race and heritage something you can honestly appreciate, thank God for and enjoy to his glory?
Our disinterest and apathy toward our own heritage and race may actually be our disregard for God’s finger in history and for his very sovereign design of us. Race and heritage are beautiful. We should not only enjoy our own, but should enjoy all races to the glory of God, while walking in love and living in unity.
Diversity is Intentional
Scripture emphasizes people worshipping Christ from every nation, tribe and tongue and that shows that the diversity of the human race is intentional. In Revelation 7:9-10, God shows the Apostle John a beautiful vision:
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!”
In the eschaton, we see a clear picture of how race and heritage will (and even now) give glory to God. All people of every nation together in unity and love will worship the Lamb who is worthy of all praise and honor. Turning a blind eye to our heritage and refusing to acknowledge the importance of engaging the struggles, stereotypes and hardships that blacks and other races undergo is to endorse a colorless and incomplete gospel.
Our race and heritage are important because God made them. It is no mistake that you are African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Indian, Japanese, mixed, etc. Your heritage, that God intentionally gave you, is nothing to be ashamed of. Will you downplay the way God has made you, or will you use your racial ethnicity for his glory?