Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

This post is dedicated to two Steves: Steven Hamilton and Steve Schenk. You can check out Steven Hamilton on his blog Verve and Verse writing about theology, church, and his future plans to start a faith community in Pittsburgh and you can check out Steve Schenk writing on his blog Damascus 9 about his adventures as a church pastor in Buffalo here.

In recent years I have become aware of the issue of race more so as the pastor of a multiethnic church and through my studies at Fuller and this has caused me to explore not only the social issue of race but where I stand in regards to race and ethnicity. It has caused me to ask serious and honest questions about what I believe in regards to God’s perspective and viewpoint on race, culture, and ethnicity. Questions like

“Should there be a multiethnic church this side of heaven and is this a mandate for every church?”

“As an African American who has been robbed of culture should I place myself in a congregation where my culture is not dominant or at least valued?”

“Is there a place for a Christian black nationalist/separatist or is this going against God’s purpose for his church?”

“How can I be true to my culture and ethnicity while at the same time being a blessing to the different people around me?”

Many of these questions have been answered and many of them have not. The one thing that has emerged is that I do not want to be boxed in by race. Race is a social construct created to justify oppression. By being categorized in this way and operating within that construct I only give power to false notions of who I am as a person. To put it simply:  I am more than my skin color and physical features and these do not determine who I am. I am a human being who is capable of doing and achieving many things and experiencing the range and variety of human emotions and feelings.

With that being said.


I refuse to be boxed in. categorized. labeled. Stuck in what others have thought of me and planned for me. I refuse to be prejudged and placed in a fabricated construction of someone else’s reality. I am more than my skin color. nose size. hair texture. I am more than my history and my background. I am that but so much more. I refuse to be barred from anything life has to offer. I refuse to be excluded from all of the experience of humanity. I refuse to let my identity be dictated by others who do not know me. I refuse to grab at the small amount of options that society has opened for me.

Instead I choose to be different. unique. African. American. Loving myself. Loving my culture. I choose to be someone who lives and loves the thought that black is beautiful. I choose to contribute and give these gifts to the rest of the world. I choose to have an identity that embraces these things and goes beyond them. I choose to love others who are different. unique. European. Korean. Mexican. Chinese. Argentinian. Human. These are my people. They are me. For we are all human. I choose to speak life giving and affirming words that transcend language. transcend accents. transcend culture. transcend hatred. I choose to follow in the tradition of Martin and Malcolm. Mother Teresa and Cesar Chaves. Jesus and Buddha. I choose to speak the truth that transcends race. I choose to a be race transcending prophet.


Sometimes our travels tell more about our heart than our words. In this chapter Jesus addresses ritual washing (7:1-23) and he actually pronounces all foods as ritually clean. These were two major barriers to the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God. So Jesus addresses this issue verbally but if you continue to read the chapter you will notice something. Every story in this chapter has Jesus interacting with and ministering to Gentiles. The next story is about the Syrian Phoenician woman. Jesus is in the area of Tyre and Sidon and this woman was probably ethnically greek. The greeks and jews had a deep hostility towards each other due to greek conquest and hellenism. This resulted in clashes and fighting throughout Palestine prior to its occupation by the Roman Empire. In spite of this bitter interethnic rivalry Jesus casts a demon out of this woman’s daughter (7:24-30). His actions are in line with his words. The next story has Jesus healing a deaf and mute man in the region of the Decapolis or the ten cities (7:31-37). These cities were notoriously populated by Gentiles. Now the text doesn’t say that this man was a Gentile but Jesus was in Gentile territory and possibly had multiple interactions with Gentiles.

This is Jesus not only pronouncing the “the other” as clean but living life like the “other” is clean. His travels tell more about his stance and his agenda towards “the other” than his words. Many of us will say we could not include or love those that are not like us because we were not around them but is that really a good reason? Encountering and loving “the other” is a matter of choice and most of what we do in this consumer driven society is a matter of choice. When we see Jesus going through Tyre and Sidon and the Decapolis he is choosing to be with those who are not like him and in the process ministry happens. Where have your travels taken you? To the safe and secure place with your kind of people or to the risky place where “the other” dwells. Something to chew on.

He came to his own and his own people did not receive him John 1:11

Sometimes our search for belonging ends up empty because we do not realize that life as a believer is always full of paradox and tension. Why? It is because our Lord and Master is full of paradox and tension. Fully God and fully man. Poor and rich. Weak and powerful. One of the most striking paradoxes is that he belonged and did not belong. As a jew he belonged to the jewish nation. As a human he belonged to humankind. He was naturally connected to these groups and had an affinity for them. We also are connected to many groups and affinities. I myself belong to African Americans. I also belong to the hip hop nation. I belong to Fuller Seminary as well. On and on it goes until finally there is the tension of not belonging. When we side with Jesus we find ourselves in the predicament of not belonging to this world. We are then called to not only be accepted but to be rejected. The call of God demands this of us because it is the path that God chose as he became man and walked this earth. It is a call to be marginalized and rejected; to be on the outside. This is where our true calling lies. It is in belonging so much that we are touched with the infirmities and weaknesses of others. It is in not belonging so much that we can speak up for those who are oppressed. You will never be a part of the “in” crowd because Jesus wasn’t a part of the “in” crowd. He was ghetto and the people in the ghetto of galilee and judea rejected and despised him to the point of consenting to his death. When we belong and do not belong we are bound to encounter the cross and inevitable death. If this is the case then our only consolation is the resurrection where we will most certainly see that all along and throughout eternity we belong to God.