Paul’s words in 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”—are a powerful statement against the sin of partiality, as we talked about in the last chapter. But they have also been misused in our conversations about ethnicity. I’ve noticed that many evangelicals use this verse as a mute button for conversations dealing with ethnic tensions—as if when they quote it, the ethnicity of believers somehow dissolves, and we just see people as Christian without any ethnic heritage.
The statement usually goes like this: “When I look at people, I don’t see color; I see souls who need Jesus.” When someone says this to me, I ask how they see their brothers and sisters in Christ who are of a different ethnicity. The common response is sincere: “I’m color blind. I don’t see color, I only see Christ.” The irony is this that is usually—though not always—said by evangelicals of European descent.
There is a difference between the sin of partiality and what I call Christian color blindness. Partiality can be hidden deeply in the heart, making it harder to call out, while Christian color blindness is usually expressed freely and sincerely. In my personal experience, when I engage in conversations on ethnicity, a response of Christian color blindness does more harm than good. Christian color blindness is when professing believers in Christ use a Jesus Juke[i] to ignore other image bearers’ ethnicity instead of affirming it. At the core of my soul, I believe that people who profess Christian color blindness do so with a sincere heart, hoping for unity in the body of Christ, and that they are unaware of the detriment of stripping the beautiful diversity of the body—the unique ways different ethnicities exhibit God’s image—in the name of unity. Unity is not the same as conformity—and Christian color blindness suggests that conformity is what is required for people of color to be a harmonious part of the body of Christ. When the people saying they are color blind are leaders of institutions, the institution likely lacks the diversity in leadership that projects Kingdom representation.
I am a Christian who is Latino, and Christian color blindness stings my heart. It goes against God’s intention for ethnic diversity, and it’s an attempt to avoid needed conversations about ethnic diversity inside of the body of Christ, especially within evangelicalism. We don’t need to put a gag order on these talks. We need to holistically deal with our ethnicity issues so that ethnic conciliation becomes evident in our denominational structures, higher-academic institutions, conference lineups, pastoral teams, and interpersonal relationships. If the church is to reflect God’s character, we must ask ourselves a crucial question: Is God color blind?
God Is Not Color blind
God has created every human being in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), which means that we share snapshots of His character that no other creatures carry. Humans are God’s crowning act of creation.
The human race includes a multitude of ethnicities that God created out of His genius and for His glory. Ethnic diversity was God’s idea. He has the patent on it and has licensed His church to do marketing for it. God didn’t create us all the same, and He shows no partiality toward one ethnicity over another (Acts 10:34). It is God’s design that we will retain our ethnicities eternally (Revelation 7:9). And since the church is a preview of heaven, it is no accident that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, commanded His followers to make disciples of every ethnic heritage (Matthew 28:19-20).
Knowing the sinfulness of man and how we long to segregate ourselves based on comfort and preferences, God saw the need to include in His Word insights about how, as His body, we are to personify unity without mandating uniformity. Christ has broken down all walls of hostility to offer salvation to people from every ethnicity (Ephesians 2:11-22). God draws sinners to Christ for salvation regardless of ethnicity (Romans 1:16-17; 10:9-17).
It’s obvious that God is not color blind. So how can so many Christians say that they are?
You’ve been reading with D.A. Horton from his new book- Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World. Get the book or keep reading with a free excerpt here. D. A. is a Mexican-Choctaw-American church planter and speaker who engages with the tensions between our racial realities and the truth of the gospel. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at California Baptist University and pastor of Reach Fellowship in Long Beach, CA.
[i] Jon Acuff, who coined this phrase, describes it as follows: “the Jesus Juke is when someone takes what is clearly a joke filled conversation and completely reverses direction into something serious and holy” (“The Jesus Juke,” Stuff Christians Like, November 16, 2010, http://stuffchristianslike.net/2010/11/16/the-jesus-juke/).