My life has been a convergence of my white and black cultures as a biracial person.
I simultaneously live in both. Growing up, I was not taught a theology of God’s design for human ethnicities. But in college, my ethnicity and my spiritual life began to be knit together.
The issue of racial tension and hope for reconciliation has come to the forefront of the political and social spheres. My heart hurts from the hardships my people face in this country and the hardships my ancestors have had to bear for hundreds of years.
I have navigated the whiplash of political views and social understanding from my two communities. I have struggled under the weight of harsh words and misunderstandings in the past, and even in the past months. Yet, Jesus has been my rock and fortress in the times of trouble.
There is a large divide between what people from ethnic minority cultures in this country experience and what people from the majority culture experience. This divide also exists in the church, but God has been doing a work in my life for the past six years.
He’s shown me how I am made in His image – ethnicity and all. He’s stirred in my heart a desire to affirm others’ ethnicities and cultures because the gospel is good for every culture. In the end, all nations will praise Him.
The past year has been difficult as I feel burnt out from conversations about race and ethnicity, and even hurt by the responses of Christians in my life.
The Lord placed it on my heart to do an outreach on my campus as part of my ministry with Cru. We used chalkboards to pose two questions to students passing by on campus:
“It’s hard being ____ (ethnicity) because…”
“What does God think about your ethnicity?”
The goal was to expand the campus perspective, to dialogue about diversity and faith. The boards went up one afternoon in October, but the reaction was not what we expected. While students from a variety of backgrounds chose to share their perspectives, some, particularly from ethnic minorities, were upset. There was a misunderstanding surrounding the purpose of the outreach.
My heart was heavy for weeks following the outreach. I felt out of place trying to lead majority culture students in a biblical understanding of culture and ethnicity while feeling rejected by multicultural students on campus. My mind raced with questions about where I fit in as an ethnic minority believer and how I should bridge the divisions present on my campus.
I felt misunderstood from all fronts. My immediate reaction was to curl up and hide from the world, but the Lord slowly drew me out. He used people in my life to encourage me and He humbled my heart.
Today, I continue to share about race and ethnicity with my students, and the Lord has opened doors for me to build connections with some of the ethnic minority students on campus through other multicultural clubs. Even though my plans to foster the conversation didn’t go as I wished, the Lord was making a way.
I do not possess the strength to love my enemies, or even my friends sometimes. I do not have the courage to have hard conversations. I don’t know how to lead my students and friends when I lack hope. But the gospel reminds me that I do have an ultimate hope to be found in God, who sees and knows the injustices His people face, and laments with us.
I don’t have perfect answers to loving by faith, but I know my God supplies what I need. My God, who convicts, soothes and who has loved me radically knows my innermost being. I look to Him when my soul is angry or weary or anything in between, because He has sacrificed everything for me.
When we find ourselves struggling to love others, let’s love by faith through the example of Jesus found in Philippians 2:1-11:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
When our identity is rooted in Christ we have the ability to move toward others in humility and love.
We may feel alone and we may make mistakes, but it is worth it to build bridges, seek understanding and affirm the value of the cultures the Lord has made all people to have.