… for they will see God.”
Unlike most persons I talk to, I think about race in order to discern ways to never think about it again. I talk about race in order to eradicate it from conversations about human identity and the ways in which we relate to each other. I assert that we are not related because of race so why should it determine our relationships? Instead, we are linked, joined, matched, paired two by two by two by two because we are all made in the image of God. We are related to every single human being on the face of the earth. We belong to every body.
Ann Voscamp shares in her book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are:
“Isn’t He the face of all faces? He is infinite and without end, without jaw or sockets, everywhere eye. The face of the moon, the face of the doe, the face of the derelict, the face of pain, His (is) the countenance that seeps through the world, face without limitation, face that ‘plays in ten thousand places.'”
“The Face of all faces.” Are we not asked to love our neighbor as our self? Would it, perhaps, require that we see our neighbor as our self, that we see ourselves in our neighbor, that we see the Self in those we share space with– whether neighborhood, city, country or world? Could it be that race reduces our vision, restricts our sight in that we are only able to see and consequently, love those who “look like us”? Could our ability to see be symptomatic of heart troubles, of a heart defiled? I think so.
Race defiles our heart, corrupting the purity of love. It tells us that we can only love those who are within our socioeconomic circle and culture, that you can love “us” but not “them.” It limits the range, the span of love. Race tells us that love can only go so far, that we should not reach for persons of other cultures. This social construct tells us that physical features are an indication of those who are lovable, visible, touchable.
But, we are Christians who are called to love everyone who looks like God, made in His image. This is problematic as race says that God looks like us and anyone who does not belong to our socially constructed race not only is evil but is the image of evil. I look like God so you look like the Devil. God forbid.
Race pollutes our heart, destroying the newness of love. It teaches us that all relationships with persons of this culture or that one will begin and end the same. Race simply has no faith in relationships with persons of other cultures. It does not believe in love this big or wide or strong; it only believes in the love that it can contain. And it will not entertain the possibility of loving someone who has long been considered an enemy.
Race taints our heart, spoiling the excitement of love with prejudice and stereotypes. It says that every single person is the same. So, why love? Why look into her and his face for a relationship? Walk away. They are all the same. It’s been done. But, really it hasn’t.
The fact is that none of our hearts are pure when it comes to race. We all hold prejudices, stereotypes, sacred hatreds close to our hearts. This is the work of love; there is always something else to clean. There is always some unfinished business within us and around us that must be addressed, ordered and made right.
And we know it based on what we can and cannot see. We are pure in heart when we can see God in the face of all of humanity. Lord, make us pure because we want to see. Give us Your eyes, full of compassion, hope and faith. In the name of the Pure One who became dirty for us, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.