[Updated from the archives.]
This past Monday marked 54 years from the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his speech with the famous repeating line “I Have a Dream.”
I was only three years old in 1963, so a personal memory is beyond me. But I remember the Civil Rights Movement that continued to unfold in the ’60s and ’70s. Voting rights, affirmative action, the unequal drafting of people of color into the military at the height of the Vietnam War – I remember all of these from the news, in the lives of families around me, and from the protests that often appeared on the street as we’d drive into San Francisco. You see lots of interesting things when you grow up fifteen minutes from the Haight-Ashbury District.
One thing I saw repeatedly in the High School I attended was a wide variety of skin colors. People went from the darkest hue to the palest pastiness imaginable. (Where did I fall on the spectrum? Let’s just say I firmly anchored the pasty end.) The high school band was a great place to see the variety, and when we held a band potluck fundraiser you were as likely to see lumpia and collard greens as enchiladas and a Jello salad.
My high school band in the early 70s, with my older sister on the far left of the top row. (Source)
Together we made a diverse table of food, much like our skin colors made for a diverse bunch of musicians.
Color and the People of God
The kingdom of God includes people from every nation, tribe and tongue. (Revelation 7:9.) It’s clear that membership in God’s kingdom under the New Covenant isn’t limited to people of one particular race or color. As Paul said:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28.)
This isn’t just a New Covenant phenomenon either. When some Old Covenant leaders tried to denigrate a woman just because she had different color skin, God put a stop to it immediately. (Numbers 12. More thoughts on that passage here.)
It’s clear, God does not deliver his love based on what color skin someone has.
Yet I think God loves color. After all, we certainly are a colorful bunch, we humans. There are innumerable shades from one person’s skin to the next. For that matter, there are shades aplenty just in looking at the skin on a single person’s body.
You want more proof that God loves color? Consider the lilies of the field, because as Jesus said they look more splendidly colored than any clothing we can create. (Matthew 6:28-29.) And God wants us to be creative in our use of color as well. When he instructed the Israelites on how to build the tent of meeting for their camp in the wilderness, he told them to bring yarns of many colors, die the animal hides red, and use a variety of colorful gem stones as well.
Color, then, seems to be very important to God.
Yes, God doesn’t look at the color of your skin in considering whether to bring you into his kingdom. Yet still he looks on the color of your skin … and does so with delight.
All those skin tones, colors and shades are precious to God. Even more so, the people wearing those tones, colors and shades are precious to him.
As Dr. King said:
Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering “I Have a Dream.” (Wikipedia)
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day … little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
And when this happens … we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands … .
The point isn’t to erase color, but to erase the barriers that people put up based on color. God delights in all his children. Should you do any less when looking at the people he brings into your life each day?