Black Lives Matter.
I’m white, and I’m talking mostly to white people. We white people have the most work to do.
In The Way of Mission, we follow Jesus’ admonition to take up our crosses and follow. It’s a way of sacrifice. Lose your life to save it.
Let me tell you a story, an object lesson in personal growth. My mother and late father were small-town doctors. Starting in the Seventies, they traveled the world to countries with Baptist hospitals. They’d stay a few weeks at a time, covering for Baptist doctors who were away for continuing education. Three times they went to the hospital in Ogbomosho, Nigeria.
After one trip to Nigeria, they brought us home a gift, a carving of the Last Supper. The carving was, in a word, eye-opening. At table sit Jesus and eleven disciples, Black and African all. Standing and turning away to leave is Judas Iscariot, money-bag in hand, and his face is white.
The carving got broken some years ago: I wish I still had it to show you! That image has been worth a thousand words to me. Jesus and the faithful, look-alikes to the people who carved it. Judas the betrayer, looking like me.
It’s normal and healthy (within limits) to see ourselves each and all as included in God’s favor. Thus white people like me have mostly portrayed God, Jesus, and the great figures of the Bible as white like me. The trouble comes when normal turns inward and downward to simply normative. Then only white images of greatness and transcendence are acceptable.
Accept this: Jesus was Black, in every sense of the word. Semitic in skin tone and features, he was likely as dark as nearly anyone you could chance to meet on America’s streets today. White Jesus is a figment of white imagination.
Also accept this: Jesus was Black, as a minority, and often despised as minorities often are. What is it that makes the majority despise the minority? I’m white, and I’m always in the majority, sometimes disliked and opposed, hated even, but never despised.
The Bible describes Jesus, once followed and cheered by thousands, as despised and rejected when he stood with the despised and rejected. What Mission calling will you pursue that risks falling out with those don’t get it? Will you stand with Black people for racial justice, even if it’s tricky? As the late, great Congressman John Lewis famously said, it’s time to get into some “good trouble.”