AN YOU IMAGINE not being able to differentiate between reds versus greens, or blues versus yellows? Or, imagine if you could only see things as gray? This is the reality for many people.
Color blindness is the inability to see certain colors as they are. The most severe form of color blindness is achromatopsia; this is when everything appears to be gray. Though you might think it’s a rare occurrence, about one in 10 men have some form of color blindness, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Unfortunately, this condition can limit job opportunities, and because it is typically associated with additional eye problems, it can affect one’s way of life in general.
Those who are color-blind are unable to take in the varied beauty of God’s creation, and yet, many well-meaning people aspire for all of us to be color-blind.
Diversity Doesn’t Require Color Blindness
People will often say in relation to ethnic and racial diversity that they are “color-blind.” Many times, it’s their way of expressing that they see all people as just that—people. Everyone is the same, and they never differentiate between people based on color. I’ve also heard it as a defense against racism: “I’m not racist. I love all people. Actually, I’m color-blind.”
However I’d like to suggest we are not color-blind, we don’t need to be color-blind, and we should strive to not be color-blind. Instead, I’d like to suggest we embrace being color-smart.
Color Smart Celebrates God’s Design
Being color-smart enables us to see people as made in the image of God just like us, while also acknowledging the beauty of our differences. As image bearers, we are all the same. In other words, God doesn’t discriminate against certain people groups in His design. Regardless of ethnicity, we are all created equally to reflect aspects of our Creator God.
However, God does create each and every one of us uniquely. We are not all the same in regards to skin color, interests, likes, gifts, and desires. He has created us different for a purpose; namely, His glory. So, let’s be color-smart — recognizing the differences in others in such a way that expresses genuine interest in and love for our neighbor.
To further emphasize this point, here are five reasons why we should see the beauty of God’s creation in the people He has created.
1. God created us in His image.
We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). No, we don’t look like Him (John 4:24), but we reflect something about His character. So, if we are His image-bearers, we should embrace different ethnicities instead of pretending there aren’t any. Our differences are purposed by God for His glory.
2. Racial and ethnic color blindness ignores reality.
It’s simply not realistic to be color-blind. As an African-American female, I cannot (and have no desire to) erase the fact I am how God made me. There is no hiding my milky-brown, freckled skin. I am who I am. When I walk in a room and I am the only black woman, it’s obvious. There’s no benefit in pretending.
I’m not saying we need to act awkward around each other. If we’ve embraced that God has created us as equals, there’s no need for that. If someone who is culturally or ethnically different from you comes around, it is unrealistic, unhelpful, and possibly unloving to pretend you don’t notice.
3. Our culture and background affect who we are.
Our culture is often tied to the color of our skin. Denying this diminishes God’s wisdom in ordaining our culture and background (Acts 17). As Christians, we know our ultimate identity is in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), and we have the hope that Christ will redeem our history. Yet, there is no doubt that our upbringing, family history, and culture affect who we are.
To really get to know someone — and thus love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) — means getting to know their unique background and how it has shaped them. If we erase color, we potentially forfeit a deeper relationship with someone who’s not like us.
An unfortunate side effect of not appreciating our neighbor’s culture is a general misunderstanding when we see racism in the news or in our backyards. We can minimize the outrage we see, and think, Aren’t we past this? Because we have tried to move past color, we’ve minimized our genuine cultural differences, and this can lead to a lack of mercy and grace toward those who think differently than us.
4. All nations are found in Scripture.
One of the most important reasons to recognize the precious colors of God’s creation in human beings is that He doesn’t erase these distinctions in Scripture. Two oft-quoted passages in Revelation reveal to us not only will there be many colors when Jesus returns, but these tribes and tongues and nations will be worshiping together (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). This is a beautiful picture of the reconciliation of the Lord — first in reconciling us to Himself, then us to one another. Heaven will be filled — gloriously — with people of all colors.
5. The Gospel is for all nations.
The most important reason to be color-smart is that the Gospel is for all nations. God celebrates His creation and redemption of all people. The Bible tells us we sinned greatly, putting everything out of order (Gen. 3). Throughout all of Scripture, God is working toward the redemption of all people through Christ (Gal. 3:8; Eph. 2). And He will be glorified on that last day when all nations are worshiping together because it will be a fulfillment of His promise to redeem every tribe, tongue, and nation.
So, instead of pretending like we are color-blind, let’s celebrate God’s creation and be color-smart. Instead of pretending like there are no differences, let’s get to know one another. The pursuit of ethnic harmony doesn’t require us to ignore how God uniquely designed us. When we celebrate our differences, I believe we reflect what God has demonstrated in His Word.
It’s time to find someone not like you and learn about their joys, upbringing, food likes, faith, trials, loves, family, and culture. Enjoy their friendship, and remember they’re a person made in the image of God — just like you. Refuse to be color-blind; open your eyes and enjoy the different shades of God’s beauty reflected in your neighbors.
Trillia Newbell is director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. trillianewbell.com
Reprinted by permission of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (erlc.com).