I am a white male.
According to a growing way of thinking, I am a symbol of the oppression of women, of indigenous cultures, of anyone who is different to me.
My skin colour and my physiology have long been the key to power. Until not very long ago, people like me would almost be the only ones with a clear voice. As arbitrary as it is that one type of person in a society would hold all the power, that's how it was, and often is, and that’s what many people are trying to change.
The Bible was a text on which the American civil rights movement was built. Yet at the same time it was the text many people used to justify segregation.
That's not too surprising, given the rich and complex collection of literature the Bible is. The Bible is a book that spans centuries of history, and one that is compiled of poetry, census reports, personal letters, family history, legal texts and more. When trying to come up with some support for your position, there’s bound to be some foothold. But if we read to listen rather than read to prove our point, what does the Bible have to say?
Jesus loved people who were very different to Him. He went out of his way to talk to the Samaritan woman at the well. He went even more out of his way to visit the possessed man in the tombs. He went most out of His way to visit humanity. He left the throne of God to live among dusty and tired peasants who were constantly arguing about which of them was most important. He gave his life up for people who snatched and hoarded and thought mainly of themselves. The only innocent one bore the sentence of murderers and sex offenders and people who tell lies.
Peter was just one Jew who loved Jesus who got a headache because God told him to do the opposite of what he always thought God wanted. He was told to eat with gentiles. Greeks. Not Jews. What if they served shellfish? What if they served pork? Or hawk? He plays ‘Never have I ever’ with God—telling him that it’s clearly unclean!
Peter goes and breaks the food laws for the sake of the gospel. Why? My hunch is that it’s because God always intended that everyone have the chance to know Him. That’s what the Psalms point toward when they say all nations will praise Him. Why the food laws? This is a more sketchy theory, but I think it’s less an advertisement for refrigeration and more an object lesson in holiness. There are some things you just don't do. There are some things that seem appealing but you must not touch. There are some things that will be bad for your relationship with God, so cut them out.
The good news is that race is not a barrier to life in Christ. Sin is. Our problem is not our skin colour or body shape or sex or level of physical or mental ability. Our problem is that we act as though we’re God when we struggle to manipulate the fabric of Creation, let alone weave it.
We are equal in being designed by the greatest artisan ever, made to reflect God’s character. We are on equal footing in our need for rescue from God’s judgement.
The great news is that we are all able to be emancipated from Sin through the sacrifice of Christ.
And if anyone regardless of race or gender can come to know and love Jesus, then anyone can become part of God’s family. We are equal in being adopted into God’s family like Sons—male and female with equal status before God, no one treated like first-century daughters.
And so, if we are equal before God, let’s treat each other with the dignity and the graciousness each of us would like to be treated with, regardless of our differences.
What does that mean for the way of white men?
It means that we shouldn’t be hostile to the rising rhetoric of embracing different voices. We need to listen. We need to love the outsider and the disadvantaged. We need to use what power we have with justice, for the good of others and the glory of God.
We also need to learn the difference between the ways of God and the ways of humanity. Culture can and will change. It can be great, and it can be negotiated. God’s ways are immovable. To abandon them is to die.
Good thing God is in control, not us. He keeps His promises. He makes beautiful things, and brings good out of bad.
Matthew Joils is Christchurch based artist. He is passionate about mission and sustainability.
Matthew Joils’ previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/matthew-joils.html