Yesterday, I shared a message with the congregation titled, “Costly Obedience.” Unpacking the well- known hymn recorded in Philippians 2.5-11, I invited listeners to consider again the price that Christ paid for our sins. It was a costly obedience because he was obedient to the point of death– not obedient for personal gain, not agreeable to pacify. Christ was obedient to the end of himself, his will to live surrendered for our sake.
But, we see so much death these days. With church bombings in Egypt and the gassing of children in Syria, we could get use to it. Paranoia or succumbing to our circumstances seem to be the only viable options. However, this is not simply “the world we live in now”; it is the world we have created. Not to be confused with the kingdom of God, this is not heaven for any of us. Persons are paying the price for our theological disagreements, our contests for power and need for recognition with their lives. This kind of belief paid in dead children’s bodies is an unfathomable exchange.
This, of course, led me to begin thinking about the identities we hold on to, inherit and pass down to our children. In America’s racialized society, we fight for colored bodies, for black power, white power and visibility. Somehow, we learned that this identity connects us to some truth greater than ourselves, that being defined by the social coloring of skin is worth something. And persons will spend their lives emptying themselves of their culture, language and mannerisms in order to be filled with “whiteness.” For many, it is believed to be the complete and full expression of our humanity, the supreme (human) being.
Race is a kind of religion with a racialized deity, creating good and bad bodies. We create Christ in our image to prove that our bodies are valuable. But, what does it cost to be a racial being? Who paid the price for us to call ourselves beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white? Surely, it is was not Christ. Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could become white people– but God’s people.
How much did it cost? Did persons really die so that you and I could identify as a socially colored person or in order for you to have the rights that belong to all human beings, regardless of the constructs that we create to withhold them? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” But, what of our racialized selves do we bury? What funeral service have we held for black power or white nationalism? Show me where we have buried this social identity?
Disproven by all sciences, we continue to keep race alive. And if we have learned nothing of death, it is this– our skin serves no purpose in a grave. When I look at Christ’s cross, I am reminded that the identity offered in race is not worth much.