Cutting Away the Flesh of Race

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.”

~Colossians 2.8-15, New Revised Standard Version

The raceless life requires our active participation and is a part of working out our salvation (Philippians 2.12). When presented with occasions to practice racism and prejudice, we must act ethically to bring about our soul’s safety. Christ will not do it for us but we must do the work, ensuring that no one takes us captive to the philosophies of race, a human tradition not created according to Christ. Simply saying the word raceless will not erase our racial conditioning but we must crucify this concept of a racialized flesh and we must die to the racialized self daily (I Corinthians 15.31). It is not enough to confess that we believe no longer in race. Instead, we must no longer use race as an excuse for our poor Christian performance.

This confession of a raceless life also does not render us color blind. We will not grope about for new ways in which to see humanity for Christ has already given this lens to us: “As many of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27-28; see also Colossians 3.11). But, we must choose to see ourselves and others as Christ sees us– as members of one body. This body, His body, is one that we have no control over. We do not get to choose the sheep of His fold. Instead, we will be joined together in Christ, the Son of the One who “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4.17).

So bound by the social coloring of our skin, we, American Christians, often behave as if we are without options when confronted with race. We act as if race is the one thing that we cannot conquer through Christ (Philippians 4.13), that cannot be buried with Christ, that was not washed away by His blood. It is the one thing that can still be held against us and many of us believe that even God holds our socially constructed racial identity against us. But, this is not true. Christ has nailed race to the cross and it has died with Him. But, we roll the stone away; we resurrect race… because we believe it to be our savior.

The acceptance of a racialized body, the body of the flesh is the denial of spiritual circumcision, the circumcision of Christ. We can not live and allow our lives to be judged according to the flesh. This has been removed through Christ. We cannot be alive both to the flesh and to Christ.  If we accept the testimony of Christ as a believer then, we cannot be judged by race or its record against us. This is proof of the possibility of a raceless life and it is already written. We just have to live it.

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