This is Part 2 of a two-part series by Karen Ellis.  Read the first part here.

Women of Color and Discipleship 

In light of the Black woman’s unique history and our culture’s demeaning preconceptions, a key element to discipling women of color must include a plan that integrates the full person, both body and spirit.

Christ Himself was identified as the coming Savior in part by the particularity of His race.  Though many early church fathers affirmed that the image of God in man doesn’t solely refer to the body, they still affirmed that the body and spirit worked together in relationship both in creation and glorification.  Reformer John Calvin attributed the glory of God to the whole person that “extends to the whole excellence by which man’s nature towers over all kinds of living creatures. Therefore, there was no part of man, not even the body itself, in which some sparks did not glow,” once his or her corrupted nature was restored in Christ.  Augustine wrote that “for some mysterious reason …. the soul needs the body” both in life and in glory, and the body and spirit interdependence is evident in both Adam and Christ.  Like Adam, we currently exist in temporal bodies bearing a distorted image of God; like Adam, our physical bodies will be sown into the ground; and like Christ, those in union with Him will be resurrected in a perfected and glorified body, fitted for the age to come.

It is a stretch then, to say that we can just ignore the body; without a body, on this side of glory or the next, a soul is not a complete person.  As I look at the significance of Christ’s total personhood here on earth – his race, gender, ethnicity, time and location of birth, it leads me to ask of him in turn, “To what end and for what purpose was I given this particular body, shaped and colored this way, specifically and intentionally plumbed and wired?” Only the One who created me can explain my body’s kingdom-building purposes for this time, place and space.  Even though race itself is neither holy nor profane, I can still appreciate its redemption by the Creator, to be received with thanksgiving, awe and reverence.

Renewing Our Minds

Woman of color, your body is uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully made with great care and attention. The diverse “packages” in which God has presented all peoples to the world are his intentional handiwork, and our appearance merely contributes to our unique identity and purpose. There is a world full of other women of color – and an even broader world full of other races – that desperately need to know of this sovereign God who makes no mistakes among his creatures.

Renewing our minds by focusing on Christ as Creator will not be a one-time event; mind-renewal is a garden that needs constant tending, and we women of color have a long and weedy history regarding our bodies that needs clearing. Yet once cleared, it must be tended, or the seeds of either dissatisfaction or arrogance over others will sprout, take root, and choke out our view of Christ. I dare say that given our unique history, we may be among the seemingly foolish things of the world that have power to confound the self-proclaimed wise; empowered with this knowledge, we can guide others to freedom who are still bound in the idolatry that either leads to self-exaltation or self-doubt.

“So if you want to know beauty’s
Rainbow sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.”

 (To hear a rare recording of Langston Hughes 

reciting his entire poem “Harlem Sweeties”, click here.)