Why do we so easily forget that God is an artist?
In fact, that’s the first image of God that the Bible gives us- God as Creator.
And while racism can’t be summed up or completely explained by such a simple illustration, it’s occurred to me that hatred towards another person based off of the color of his or her skin is essentially a failure to see the beauty of that person as one of God’s creations. Christianity (and other religions) holds that we as humans are created in God’s image (early Church theologians called it Imago Dei-“image of God”). In short, every one of us possesses inherent sacred worth as reflections of the God who lovingly breathed us into existence.
Yet for some reason difference scares us- particularly difference in skin tones- and that fear causes us to forget that God is an artist who revels in painting God’s creations with a wide array of colors. To compound the problem, when race-based hate crimes occur many of us respond with well-meaning yet ultimately misguided attempts to move past the horror by vowing to ignore our differences. We use terms like “color blind” to convince the world around us (and ourselves) that racism isn’t a problem for us and that we’re not a part of the problem because “we don’t see skin color.”
Sadly, though, to ignore the color of another person’s skin is to ignore God’s artistry. It is essentially failing to appreciate and accept that person wholly as a beautiful masterpiece of immeasurable worth. And whether we mean it to or not, that failure ultimately undermines our ability to value and love those who are different from us.
The diversity of God’s Creation is overwhelming and undeniable- we can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. Perhaps instead of futilely attempting to ignore it, then, we should embrace it. Rather than saying to a person of another race, “I don’t see your skin tone,” how about, “In you I see another beautiful expression of the image of God?” If we’re truly serious about overcoming that which divides us, we must first acknowledge and accept that “different” does not mean “of less value.”
May the God of grace, mercy, and love abide with us and guide us as we walk this difficult path together. And may God grant healing and peace to Emmanuel AME Church and to all of those who continue to suffer as victims of violence and hate. Amen.