My dad was a racist. Members of my family claimed to be a part of the Klan. I grew up hearing people of other races referred to by every appalling epithet imaginable. In fact, I don’t think I learned any new racial slurs after I was 5 years old because, sadly, I had leaned them all as a wee boy. I was discouraged from befriending kids of color. The trouble was, I did make friends with kids of other races and they became dear to me. So, a part of me could not embrace the racism that I saw modeled. When I was about 6, a little girl kissed me on the cheek. It was harmless and innocent. It was the first time a girl ever kissed me. She was Mexican and I was my fine little Anglo-Celtic self. I knew in that moment that something inside of me liked people from other cultures.
Growing up in Los Angeles County I was exposed to and fascinated by a variety of ethnicities. I grew to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of each people grouping around me. But, at the same time, I saw deep and violent divides between the races. And inside of me, there was a subtle feeling that European was better. Racism can be defined as the belief that members of one race or another possess characteristics that distinguish it as inferior or superior to another. By this definition it is easy to see racism on every continent and in my own heart.
I became of follower of Jesus when I was a teenager. After I fell in love with Jesus I discovered that Jesus is not European or Western but Middle Eastern. To satisfy my thirst for spiritual reality I began to read the Bible insatiably. One day, while reading in Acts 2, the following words changed my life. “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome both Jews and converts to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs – Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” …Then Peter stood up…and addressed the crowd: “…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’….”. On that day I realized that the first followers Jesus came from all over the world and that Jesus is for people of all languages, ethnicities and nations. Jesus is for young and old, men and women, Jews and non-Jews. This passage impacted me profoundly. I realized immediately that I had to repudiate all forms of racism. The community of Jesus followers, from its very first days, was and is multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual. Anyone who claims to love God and hates those of another race doesn’t understand the love of God. Racism is evil. Racism is against the teaching of Jesus. Jesus came to be the Savior of people from every ethnicity on the planet.
Today, you may be Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, European, African, Jewish, Middle Eastern or a beautiful mixture of all of these. God is for you in whatever skin you are in. Jesus’ community is made up of peoples from every color and culture. Our own local church has members from over a dozen language groups. Jesus unifies us all and is for us all. It’s a beautiful thing. If you are not yet following Jesus with all of our heart and soul, I encourage you to start a conversation with him today.