After inspecting the skin on his forearm, my son looks up and announces, “My skin isn’t white, but it’s not as dark as my friend Sam’s.” I nod in affirmation. He cocks his head to one side and asks, “So what color am I?”
As a mixed race, transracial, part Asian American family, it’s impossible to avoid the subject of skin color, race, and ethnicity. Noticing difference has always been normal for me and my kids.
Whenever we can, we affirm our kids’ noticing skin color and tone. Whether it’s their own, a friend’s, a stranger’s, a toy’s, or a book character’s, we talk about what we see and note how beautiful the variations are. Every moment of noticing is an opportunity to tell the truth.
We can’t celebrate, know, or grow alongside what we pretend not to see.
In college, I did a Bible study with a group of friends about the life and ministry of Jesus. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, sandwiched between two afternoon classes — “Literature of the Holocaust” and “Blacks and Jews in the National Imagination” — I walked to a local coffee shop and spent time poring over Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For hours on those days, my mind was filled with stories of systemically oppressed people groups from the books in my literature classes and the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry told through the gospels.
One particular afternoon, in-between sips of my coffee, I read a paragraph in the study that emphasized how Jesus might’ve looked. It said that based on where He was from, He likely had very dark skin, and course, black hair, like me. Before this, I had never heard anyone describe Jesus as anything other than white. As I considered His face and skin, I cried right into my coffee cup.
I thought about Jesus coming to the house I grew up in. I’m now sure that if He had, He wouldn’t sigh or roll His eyes when my mom would tell Him to take His shoes off. I’m sure He wouldn’t have minded the scent of kimchi that never left our fridge.
I thought about what it would’ve been like to stand right next to Jesus, close enough to see the sweat on His dark, earthly skin and smell the way His clothes, breath, and hair might have carried the scent of cumin, coriander, garlic, and dill.
It was during that semester years ago I became convinced that more than anyone else yesterday, today, or tomorrow, Jesus goes out of His way to notice, lift up, and love those who are treated as if they are unseen. It’s Jesus who sees our skin color, our culture, our humanity.
Imagining Jesus with His Middle Eastern skin moved my faith beyond the barriers that stood between infancy and intimacy.
God didn’t give us gifts of color and culture so we would pretend they didn’t matter. Jesus with His brown skin, poor skin, lonely skin, targeted skin, villainized skin, arrested skin, wounded skin, and resurrected-but-still-scarred skin made every color and culture of humanity matter. He gave each of us our colors so we can learn how to recognize and discover the breadth and width of His perfect love in our diversity.
In the face of our nation’s years of systemic racism and oppression, may we consider the details of Jesus’ humanity, and let them move us one step closer to a posture of humility, repentance, and healing.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT)
God knows what it feels like to be human. He sees your tired skin, tender skin, dark-as-night skin, ripe-as-a-peach skin, hairy skin, freckled skin, wrinkled skin, creamy-hot-cocoa skin, almond skin, smooth skin, changing-color-with-the-seasons skin, calloused skin, and loves every inch of your fearfully-made, intentionally-given skin.
Incarnate isn’t just a spiritual word; it’s the Word made flesh with divine details of culture and ethnicity.
I tell my son, “Your skin is the color of caramel and brown sugar, and I see God’s face and understand His love a little bit more when I see you.”
Incarnate isn’t just a spiritual word; it’s the Word made flesh with divine details of culture and ethnicity. -@tashajunb: Click To Tweet