My son is 6-years-old. If he were reading this he would probably want me to tell you that he turns seven in a month, so I guess I should mention it. The other day he reminded me of something he said earlier this year. I admit, when he originally said it I thought it was pretty awesome. But when he said it the other day his little insight has been on repeat in my mind:
“Daddy, I don’t know why people make fun of other people with different skin colors. God made all people and Jesus is every color.”
I’ve had this image of a multi-colored Jesus with a multi-ethnic face stuck in my mind every day since. Sure, I know that historically Jesus was of middle eastern descent, but what Ian sees in his 6-year-old mind fascinates me. Is this the child-like faith Jesus spoke of, a faith big enough to form an anything-is-possible imagination that causes my boy to see Jesus as every “color,” even while society tries to to convince him that Jesus looks like him? There is equity in my son’s Jesus. At the same time, my son isn’t buying into the idea that he should be “color blind,” either. Ian is beginning to see the beauty and purpose in “color” and ethnic diversity, and it’s beautiful because he believes it’s who God is; it’s what the Lord Jesus looks like to Ian.
My 6-year-old is an unexpected theologian.
This conversation opened the door to talking about what he has already seen in 1st grade, and how boys and girls of color are made fun of more than the boys and girls that look like him. It’s like Ian is willing to admit something some of us caucasian Americans deny: that there are people among us who are, for many reasons, more vulnerable to ridicule and marginalization in our society than others. By “vulnerability” I do not mean they are weak, rather they are more susceptible to marginalization and judgement based on their ethnicity, nationality, sexual preference, religion, or socio-economic class, and must be given particular attention so they too are able to flourish in the midst of marginalization and judgement.
Perhaps this is why the God of the Jews always made special mention of a quartet of people considered the most vulnerable among them–the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant (it’s there in the bible, over and over again. Look it up.). It’s as if God was saying to the people of Israel, “As you enjoy all I am giving to you, and as you flourish as my blessed people, remember that #poorlivesmatter, #immigrantlivesmatter, #orphanlivesmatter and #widowlivesmatter.” I am willing to bet money that some of the Jews, particularly the comfortable ones living in the center of society said, “But God, don’t #alllivesmatter?” If we open our bibles we will see God say something like this:
“Yes of course they do, but that is not my point. I am telling you to make special provision for these particular lives because there will come a time when you knowingly or unknowingly value them less than yourselves and put their livelihood in jeopardy as they become marginalized by your indifference or worse, your judgement or disdain. I want you to remember that these particular lives matter as much as yours, and that you too were once a marginalized and despised people.” 1
The Jews failed to understand that recognizing one people-group’s vulnerability is not the same as giving them a higher valuation over another, but about recognizing that some lives need particular provision because certain socio-cultural systems (plausibility structures and authorizing social-narratives) make it possible for these lives to be placed on a lower rung of society’s ladder. Commanding that special consideration be given to the lives of the poor, fatherless, immigrant and widow has always been God’s way of helping His people remember that they are valued and must not be abandoned in their marginalization when the ethnic majority or center of society fails to recognize their worth. It’s an historical reality that the Jews experienced and God didn’t want them to forget.
I think my son is learning more about God’s heart as he notices people of color being teased more than the children who look like him. So I encouraged him to stand with them:
“Son, #blacklivesmatter and they matter more than some people realize or want to admit. And when others forget or do not want to believe it, we need to help remind them because Jesus’ people know it to be true. Like you said, we believe that Jesus is every color and made every person of color. He thinks the diversity makes our world a more beautiful place, and so should we.”
My son is beginning to recognize vulnerability and marginalization when he sees it. Sometimes he sees Jesus more clearly than I. He is only 6-years-old, but I’m thinking I have much to learn from the beautiful simplicity of his child-like faith.
- Deuteronomy 10:12-19; 14:22-29; 16:11-14; 24:17-21; 26:13-19; 27:26; Jeremiah 7:3-7; 22:3; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 22:36-40; 25:31-46; Luke 14:15-23; Romans 15:7-13.