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Jesus Is Not Colorblind

If you met me in the mid ’90s you would have found me walking the halls of my high school in bright purple jeans and a famous white T-shirt that read, “Love Sees No Color.” Thankfully, the clothing was a fad that quickly passed away. Unfortunately, the idea that colorblindness is a virtue still remains.

A colorblind mentality contradicts both the nature of the God we worship and also the Scriptures we treasure. It does this in at least six ways.

1. To be colorblind is to be blind to God’s image on display

One implication of Genesis 1:27 is that God’s image can’t be fully reflected by males alone or females alone. Rather, the qualities of each gender reflect a different aspect of who God is and, when brought together, offer a fuller reflection.

The same can be said of our ethnic and cultural differences. This is why Christianity can fit in any culture (since all cultures reflect God’s image imperfectly) and also why our expression of Christianity often must be adapted when transferred from one culture to another (since all cultures reflect God’s image uniquely). Thus, to be colorblind is to be willfully blind to God’s image as it is distinctly revealed in each ethnicity and culture.

2. To be colorblind is to be blind to another’s identity

Our ethnicities and cultures aren’t accidents. They’re part of God’s sovereign plan for us. They’re part of who we are, our identity. And, as Acts 17:26–27 makes clear, they also shape our life experiences according to God’s intentions.

When one person tells a person of another ethnicity, ‘I don’t see color,’ they might as well be saying, ‘I don’t see you.’

Some use Galatians 3:28 to argue that our ethnic identity disappears once we are united to Christ. Yet this is clearly not what Paul is communicating, as he himself so deeply valued his identity as an ethnic Jew that he wrote he would rather personally be cut off from Christ than see “my people, those of my own race” without Christ (Rom. 9:2–4).

When one person tells a person of another ethnicity, “I don’t see color,” they might as well be saying, “I don’t see that part of you that is incredibly important to you and your culture, your family history, your life experience, and your personal identity.” This is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t see you”—intended or not.

3. To be colorblind is to be blind to the uniting power of the gospel

It’s ironic that so many of us want to avoid seeing our differences when God goes out of his way to call attention to our differences. Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:14–16, Revelation 5:9, and Revelation 7:9 are just some of the passages where God calls attention to our ethnic and cultural differences in order to demonstrate the unifying power of Christ and his gospel.

We are not the same.

We are different.

And that’s what makes our unity in Christ all the more glorious.

One of the reasons colorblindness is attractive is because part of us believes that the basis for unity is similarity. But it’s not. The basis for our unity is Christ. Our differences don’t hinder that truth; they magnify it.

The basis for unity is not similarity. The basis for our unity is Christ.

If you don’t notice the differences in musical notes, you can’t hear the beauty of harmony when different notes are artfully brought together. In the same way, if you don’t notice the differences in our ethnicities, you can’t behold the beauty of the gospel when different ethnicities are powerfully brought together.

4. To be colorblind is to be blind to injustice

God is just. This doesn’t mean he’s only committed to justly judging those who perpetrate injustice (though he is); it also means he’s aware of those who suffer injustice. He is present with them in their pain. In passages such as Psalm 146 and Amos 5:21–24, it seems God even grants special favor to those society mistreats.

As people created in his image, we are to reflect the same qualities. Of course, millions of Christians take this call seriously, which is why so many are committed to fighting injustices such as sex trafficking, abortion, and issues related to homelessness.

This is good. But it’s not good enough.

Because if we are colorblind, we will by definition be incapable of seeing injustice everywhere it resides. We won’t notice that certain groups are policed, tried, or incarcerated differently than others; nor will we see the correlation between skin tone and which neighborhoods, businesses, and people our banks, real-estate agencies, or governments strategically invest and disinvest in; nor will we note the discrepancies in public education and employment opportunities that result. Seeing disparities between racial groups requires us to actually see color.

5. To be colorblind is to be unable to fight injustice

Once a race-based injustice is recognized, it requires a solution that is correspondingly race-based. Only color-conscious strategies—not colorblind strategies—can successfully address color-based inequities.

Only color-conscious strategies—not colorblind strategies—can successfully address color-based inequities.

This is certainly the model we see in Acts 6:1–7. Though the categories of race as we know them hadn’t yet been invented, the early church ran into a related issue that provides insight into how Christians might handle contemporary racial injustice. The division was based on the cultural categories of Hebraic Jews and Hellenistic Jews. Hellenistic Jews observed that while the Hebraic widows were receiving the necessary financial support from the church, the Hellenistic widows were not. They were being neglected despite the fact that Hellenistic Jews contributed to the church just like Hebraic Jews.

The apostles didn’t respond to this injustice with a culture-blind (or, for our purposes, colorblind) solution. They appointed seven Spirit-filled men to ensure both groups received equitable resources. And yet they didn’t randomly select just any Spirit-filled men. They intentionally chose seven Spirit-filled men who were also Hellenestic. Without question, there were Spirit-filled Hebraic Jews who could have fulfilled the job requirement. Yet the apostles chose to confront the injustice from a color-conscious perspective. They did this to bring justice where there was injustice, ensuring not only that Hellenistic widows would receive the same support as the Hebraic widows, but also that the Hellenistic community as a whole would have power and influence within the church.

6. To be colorblind is to be missionally ineffective

Paying attention to the categories of ethnicity and culture is key to being an effective missionary. Paul describes this famously in 2 Corinthians 9:19–23, where he explains that he became a Jew to the Jews, and one without the law to those without the law, so that “by all means [he] might save some.” The distinction between the Jews and those not under the law isn’t merely religious; it’s also ethnic. Those “not having the law” were Gentiles, a catch-all ethnic category for those who weren’t ethnic Jews.

Thus, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul is saying that he not only notices ethnic differences, but also that those ethnic differences guide his gospel ministry to each respective group. This isn’t racism. This is the exact opposite of racism. Paul so values those of other ethnicities and so recognizes their unique identity that he gladly lays aside his own identity to make the message comprehensible and compelling to those who aren’t like him.

There is only one alternative to this approach. If we don’t intentionally adapt to those who aren’t like us to ensure the gospel is heard, we will require that others adapt to us to hear the gospel. It’s clear which approach most accurately reflects the image of the God who laid aside his privileges and came for those unlike him.

That shirt I wore in the ’90s said “Love Sees No Color,” but our Bible says just the opposite. Let us love the way our barrier-crossing Savior loves us.


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