Our ethnicity isn’t the most defining part of us, but it points back to Christ.
So let me ask the proverbial question: What are you?
Are you “half and half ”?
One-sixteenth Choctaw? One-fourth Sioux?
Do you have one drop of African blood?
Are you “simply” Black? Persian? South Asian? Pacific Islander?
Or do you live in the hyphen of Asian-American?
How do you embrace your mestizaje experience?
Are you Brown? Black? White? Beige?
Now let me rephrase the question: Who has God made you to be?
Our individual answers may be similar to one or more of the above, but when we frame the question through Jesus, we bring things back into their proper, healthy order. Both identities are important, but one is primary. Our ethnicity matters because Jesus is leading us in it. Our ethnicity is beautiful and purposeful because it reflects God and his kingdom. It doesn’t get erased in the new creation; it flourishes in the new heavens and the new earth. Our ethnicity isn’t the most defining part of us, but it points back to Christ. So maybe I’m really asking this: Where are you from? Where are you going?
Or even better, where are we from and where are we going? Let’s reflect on our heritage; let’s think about the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) who await the inauguration of the Revelation 7 “Beloved Community,” a family peopled with Christians from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Do we see ourselves in that mighty throng? Can the larger church remember that, as a multiethnic group, there are people who have multiple tribes, tongues, and nations within their embodied selves? By the grace and passion of the Holy Spirit, I believe so.
So, what is a mixed Christian? What is a mixed blessing? We mixed folks are blessings indeed to our families, the church, and the world. We are each part of a new race of redeemed children, each of us a beautiful mixed blessing in the body of Christ. And he is the diverse God-man who exists in eternal love within the trinitarian unity of diversity. This new, redeemed human race doesn’t blot out or whitewash skin color and other distinctives. Rather, these differences, which God created for good, are highlighted and celebrated. Christ speaks to, through, and on behalf of mixed people, for his glory and for the good of his church. So hear this invitation, siblings. Let’s listen and rejoice that he created mixed blessings such as ourselves to be a specific manifestation of his goodness.
What a precious privilege we multiethnic folks have in our calling to embody reconciliation in our very existence and to call the church to do the same!
When we are in authentically multiethnic spaces, we know the privilege of being surrounded by a diversity that’s biblical, authentic, and representative of our community— and of the church at large. This is something a monoethnic space in the world can never be. Do we see ourselves as those who have the privilege of surrounding others with our diversity? Even as we await our ultimate residency in that holy city that will not fade and doesn’t need “the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light” (Rev 21:23), we have been given a place to make camp and call home. God has called us to wait with anticipation for the New Jerusalem, to let our stranger-and-sojourner, mixed-blessing status drive us in mission.
Mixed people and those in intentionally mixed spaces understand the feeling of never quite being at home, but we also can make a home wherever we go. We can sit in the tension of the seemingly contradictory concept that this earth is not our final home but also that we have been brought here by the Lord. Even in our exile to Babylon, while we await the Lord’s deliverance, we are called to “’build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce. . . . Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer 29:5, 7).
All humans need to know they aren’t alone. In conjunction with their Race Issue project, National Geographic created a video showing six different people being presented with pictures of complete strangers who shared a large portion of their genetic makeup and thus looked very similar. When presented with the pictures, one man grew very emotional and was flustered by his own response. I have a guess as to why he grew weepy: he was feeling the shock and maybe even the hope of seeing other people who experienced the world the same way he did, due to their appearance. For some multiethnic folks, finding people who look like us can be a rare and overwhelming experience. It can also bring healing. But perhaps we all draw too narrow a definition of what “looking like us” means.
For those who are, like me, part of a crossculturally blended family, there’s a unique aspect to our story, one that can be extremely difficult to quantify. And for those with albinism, vitiligo, and other specifically appearance-related characteristics, there are distinct issues that come into play. These siblings are also seen and welcomed at the table. We multiethnic people know some of their experiences, so let’s corporately confess the ways in which we in the church haven’t accepted—much less honored—the story of families who don’t fit the majority-culture stereotype of what a healthy family looks like.
Here we see the crux of the mixed experience and what we have to offer the church: we mixed blessings are a testament to the healing and reconciliation that can and does exist within God’s family. We don’t have to measure the stories of physically displaced refugees against the stories of emotionally displaced mixed folks. Nor do we have to pit the stories of how differently abled people experience discrimination against the stories of how we mixed folks experience discrimination. All our stories deserve their own places of honor: spaces where they are listened to and lamented. All of our stories have some points of similarity that can be used to help build bridges between people and between different families. When we in the church are doing our God-given job and making space for lament and for empowering the weak and the wounded, displacement narratives and discrimination experiences of all kinds form a rich narrative of God’s faithfulness in our hardships.
Adapted from Mixed Blessing by Chandra Crane. Copyright (c) 2020 by Chandra Crane. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com