The most recent happened in Wal-mart. (Why do these things always happen at Wal-mart?) Anyway, my wife and 9 year old daughter were walking through Wal-mart when a man sitting on a bench said something out loud to them. My daughter wasn’t sure what the man said and stopped, confused. My wife took her hand and kept walking.
“What did that man say, Mama?”, my daughter asked.
“What do you think he said?” my wife responded.
“I don’t know…maybe, ‘That’s not my Joe…?'” she said.
My wife changed the topic and they walked on. But she had heard what the man said. It just wasn’t worth repeating because it wasn’t true. The man said, “That’s not your daughter”.
The second story took place years ago when we met another person named Martha. After a very long wait at the Dr’s office we headed to Pizza Hut for some lunch. We started off with a bang by ordering the Vegetarian Pizza with banana peppers instead of black olives (and MAN, was it delicious), but the real miracle of the day came in the person of Martha.
Our server, Martha, is a vivacious black woman. She is a grandmother and had at least one child: a son age 40. She took care of her grandkids for about four years until the family got back on their feet. Martha is a follower of her Lord, Jesus Christ.
Ok, can you see her in your mind?
After serving us our pizza (Vegetarian with banana peppers!) she let us talk and refilled our glasses. My daughter was in her car seat, but got restless so Sara took her out to feed her. Martha, who also has wide eyes and a smile to match, asked us in passing if we were baby-sitting or if she was adopted. When we replied that she was adopted Martha got teary eyed, sank to her knees at the table and asked if she could pray for us. We held hands with this woman we had never met and asked God’s blessing on our family. After she said, “Amen”, she was so choked up, she had to take a minute to wipe her eyes and nose before she left us. She finally said that she was grateful because so many African-American children never have a chance if they don’t have a loving family.
“Are you a believer?” I asked.
“Yes, I am,” she said without hesitation.
“Amen,” I said, overwhelmed at the way the Lord works in little things. As we finished, I realized she hadn’t left us a check, but figured I would pay up front. When I asked the guy behind the counter, he said, “It’s been paid, Sir. Someone was feeling generous today.”
It had to be Martha so I leaned over the counter and asked quietly, “Did you pay for our meal?”
She leaned back across and said, “There are angels all around…And would I be a true follower of my Lord Jesus if I didn’t reach out and bless others who blessed me?”
I wanted to start with these two stories to share the spectrum of our family’s experience. This is what I’ve learned: we define things based on what we know. And for us white people, we have a limited experience. We know white majority culture. That’s it. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Your culture is your culture. You shouldn’t feel bad about that in and of itself. However, because of that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are “normal humans” while other people have “ethnicity” and deal with race. That’s one of the traps of majority culture. This puts us in danger, I think, of assuming that God likes our group better than the other groups…that he is like us and partial to our ethnic and cultural preferences. But what does God tell us in the bible? Two thoughts…
1. The one God created all ethnic groups from one man, Adam. We see that in Genesis, but also throughout scripture. Acts 17:26 is another example. Paul says
…he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…
So no matter what ethnic group we are apart of, we all come from one man and were all created in the image of the one God. He doesn’t have a preference for you or me based on our color or ethnicity.
2. The one God saves all ethnic groups through one man, Jesus. There is one way to salvation and it doesn’t matter if you’re red, yellow, black or white. We all come to faith through the God/man Jesus and then we become the new humanity from every tribe, tongue and nation who will eventually gather around the throne.
My point is simply this: Ethnic diversity is not a side-issue for God. It’s connected to the very center of God and His salvation story. He doesn’t show preference to one group over another. God made all ethnic groups and will save people from every ethnic group.
Playwright Ann Deavers Smith writes,
“Everybody thinks they know about race because everybody has one. But knowing about race has less to do with the race you have; it has to do with the race you don’t have. It has to do with the extent to which you seek out that which is different from you to have knowledge …”
May all of us continue to seek out that which is different from us to have knowledge…knowledge about the people God made and the people God will save.