“You don’t give people dignity, you affirm it.” – John Perkins

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Gen. 1:27

I have been at my favorite conference, CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) since Wednesday evening.  It is a conference for practitioners of community development in under resourced neighborhoods, engaging in educational, housing, medial and civic justice.  It is an organization that believes that ALL humans were created in the image of God and that God’s Kingdom is populated by citizens from every tongue, tribe and nation.  It’s beautiful, especially in today’s world that is increasingly divisive and hate filled.

For those who believe the words of the Bible are the very words of God, there is no disagreement that man was made in the image of God to image Him.  For those who have been alive more than ten years (and sadly, many at younger ages as well), the fact that the world categorizes people on a spectrum from godlikeness to subhuman is equally undeniable.  Depending upon your experiences, this can be as mundane as preference for the person in name brand apparel and avoidance of the person in ill fitting clothes with intrusive body order.  It can also mean criminalization of darker skin tones, as repeatedly and unapologetically communicated publicly in such statements and ideas as, “All Mexicans are rapists and bad hombres” or “an unidentified black male was seen…” or “Islamic forces.”

What I have had to see and hear, however, is that I am part of a narrative that has benefitted me and disadvantaged the majority of the world.  As a Christian born into white skin, I am part of a global narrative that has exceptionalized the value of God’s image presented in lighter skin over that of darker shades.  I’ve heard more of this from speakers this week who spoke truth, mostly with love and grace, who have felt the assault on their personhood for living life in darker pigments.  The reality of this is uncomfortable and even offensive to white people, to white Christians, and certainly hurts my feelings when two black pastors in a row seem to lock eyes with me as they’re preaching and exhorting me to repent of my white supremacy.

“Thats not fair!” my emotions cry.  “You don’t know anything about me!” I want to tell them.  “I’ve been doing this work of racial identity and seeing my whiteness and the unearned privileges it has afforded me!”  “I’m on your side!”  “I’m a GOOD white person!”  I want them to know.  And, much like sin that any Gospel believing Christian acknowledges with transparency, I want to own my sin but I want to do so on my terms with the response of other believers to “cover” my sin with the person and work of Jesus, not expose it more and delight in shaming it.  I was surely feeling some kind of way about all that last night.

And my wise white friend then reminded me that its our turn to feel hurt.  As our racial consciousness is slowly waking, its not enough to empathize at arms length.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 1:24

The wounds to people of color, to believers of color, are deep and long and real.  The damage of sin has caused overwhelming destruction in God’s image in all of His people.  To expect restoration and redemption of such devastation in a sitcom length episode is to naively underestimate the seriousness and power of sin and the desperate need for God’s power to heal and regenerate His creation.

My need to be seen as innocent by my brothers and sisters of color only exposes my shallow understanding of my own need for the person and work of Jesus, that perhaps I don’t really think I’m THAT bad and just need Him as arm candy rather than a hiding place.  Allowing the reality that my skin makes me an enemy of my beloved brothers and sisters of color, regardless of all my “good deeds” and “good intentions,” might just be a first step in really believing the Good News of the person and work of Jesus.  My best efforts are but filthy rags and I must in fact stand clothed in Him or I will not stand.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— Rom. 5:12

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22