“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
~ Matthew 28.18-20, NRSV
Jesus has been given all power and what does he do with it? He gives it away. He shares it with his followers, asking them to share it will all nations. What a great commission.
So, how is it that his followers now believe that it is to be shared only with their socially constructed race? Why do we believe that the good news is only for some and not all?
Primarily, it is because we believe that the good news is a cultural group. Race has taught us that socially colored white people are innately good and without sin. The color white is the symbol of purity, righteousness and holiness while the color black is associated with evil, darkness and wickedness. We have equated the meaning of a color with the meaning of a people group. In response, persons of other socially constructed groups have deemed themselves good, a part from Christ and based solely on the social coloring of skin by redefining its meaning in rebellion to whiteness.
God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul– not a human race. In Adam, all sinned and in Christ, all can be born again: “For just as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5.19, NRSV). Despite race’s attempts to divide up humanity and to give salvation and condemnation according to the social coloring of skin, we have one common ancestor according to the Genesis narrative and current scientific research. Also and more importantly, we also have one common Savior. Only Jesus saves.
It is not the message of our goodness and social accomplishments that we share with others. But, the good news is the life and ministry of Jesus. The good news is his work on the cross and his display of power in the grave. No cultural group, no socially constructed ‘race’ can take credit for that. He did not die for a particular race but out of unconditional love. It is his message and our ministry to the world.
Secondly, we believe that the good news is for some and not all because of the history of colonialism. The history of the control of many by a few has caused some of us to begin to exact our own kind of justice. These oppressors created their standard for who was worthy and unworthy and in turn, those who have been oppressed have created those same standards to serve their purposes. We believe that we can keep Christ’s good news to ourselves, believing that others are not deserving of his salvation because of the way they have treated others.
Like those who oppressed, race has convinced us that we can give and take God away. We believe that we can control who God goes to and that we can keep God away from others. Of course, this ‘god’ is our own racialized and reduced version of the Divine.
We believe that if we say that God is with us and not with them that God keeps our word and stays away. Race says that we need to be saved from a particular cultural group and the social conditions that they create. It teaches us that we have a people problem or a skin problem not a sinful condition. Consequently, our salvation is found in the acceptance of our socially colored skin or in our imitation of whiteness.
Thirdly and another result of colonial Christianity is the belief that there is a heathen race of people and we are the righteous ones to save them. We become the definition of goodness and persons are asked to convert to our culture not Christ. This is problematic as it conflicts with the Genesis account of a common ancestor and God’s description of his creation as ‘good.’ Besides, God does not create anything or anyone that He does not love.
Race teaches us that based on the social coloring of skin, we can determine who is saved from sin and who is in need of conversion. Though absurd, we use physical characteristics to determine the state of one’s soul and one’s relationship with God. This is immeasurably troubling and not based on the teachings of Jesus the Christ. This is not a Christian but a racist belief.
Race convinces us that we are the standard and the judge but Christ is the standard and God is the judge. We are called to evangelize all nations not just our own, called to save souls not ‘our race’ or any other because of racialized motives. As Christians, we believe that we need deliverance from personal sin not a cultural group, which makes anything done for one group and not all groups of people a racial agenda and not a Christian duty.
Christ is our righteousness and our acceptance of his work on the cross puts us in right-standing with God. We belong to God and God has given His Son for all His children. This was Christ’s calling and “it is finished” (Joh 19.30). It is simply our duty to spread His word and its power to all nations.