When I was growing up, my mental image of Jesus was of a fair-skinned, blue-eyed man with light brown or blond hair. I had no idea that Jesus looked nothing like me. All around the world are images of Jesus that reflect the skin color and physical characteristics of that culture. There are images of a Chinese Jesus in China, a white Jesus in much of the Western world, a black Jesus in Africa and black communities around the world, and every color in between. However, when it comes down to it, Jesus was a Jewish Galilean man. He probably had dark hair, brown skin, and dark eyes. Why does each culture’s image of Jesus reflect its own appearance?
We live in a world full of beautiful colors and diversity. It’s easy to imagine ourselves arm in arm with a person who looks different than we do, praising Jesus; however, when we look around, we see that those close to us are most like us. Why is this so often true?
It’s hard to open our lives to someone who is different than we are. It’s so much more comfortable to stick with what we know. We naturally want to be around people who make us feel good about ourselves and don’t challenge our worldviews. We don’t want people to make us uncomfortable, thus we stick with those we consider “safe.” But Jesus wasn’t safe, and he never called us to live a safe life. He called us to be revolutionary and to break down the walls that divide us. Only when we become one church can we unite under Jesus and live out his calling for our lives.
20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
According to this passage, we as Americans—no matter what our race—were not in his house until Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, brought us in. The Jews hated the Gentiles. There was no room in their lives for people who were not of the Jewish faith. But Jesus changed that. He broke down the walls of hostility and hatred. He defeated every barrier that keeps us from unity.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
We are one in Christ.
Our ethnicity is part of who we are. It is not something that we chose or can change. There is no guilt or shame in how we were created. God in his sovereignty saw fit to create a world full of many colors. We are all made in the image of God, so maybe it is fitting that the people of every culture see themselves in their own image of Jesus.
Join us over the next four days as we continue our discussion on racial unity and the barriers of pride, fear, hurt, and hopelessness that keep us from achieving it.
How do you view your ethnicity? How willing are you to step outside your personal comfort zone to embrace those who do not look or act like you?
Seek out an opportunity this week to show the love of Jesus to someone who does not look or act like you.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the beautiful diversity you have created in our world. Thank you for being counter cultural and breaking down the barriers in your world. Give us eyes to see the ways that we give preference to those who look and act like us. Help us have courage to step out of our comfort zone and love others as you have loved us. Amen.
This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.
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