Three Reasons We Should Refuse to be Colorblind

Alejandro Iñárritu is one of my favorite living film directors, and his film Birdman is one of my favorite films of all time. On Sunday, he deservedly won the Oscar for Best Director for the second year in a row. During his acceptance speech, he said something that was well-intentioned, but dangerous. He said he longs for the day "the color of our skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair." 

He was responding to the racial tensions surrounding the Oscars as well as the racial tensions covered in his film, The Revenant. Like many, Iñarritu seems to believe that the way to end the racial tensions in our society is to end our racial distinctions, to be colorblind.

Yet this is neither the solution to our tension, nor is it virtuous. 

Christians should be especially opposed to the call for colorblindness, because it contradicts the nature of the God we worship and the Scriptures we treasure. Here are three reasons why:


1. To be colorblind is to be willfully blind to God's image on display.

The Scriptures teach that all of humanity is made in God's image:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

This verse implies that God's image cannot be fully reflected by males alone nor fully reflected by females alone. Rather, the qualities generally unique to each gender reflect a different aspect of who God is and, when the two are together, offer a more full reflection than the two apart.

The same can be said of our ethnic and cultural differences. This is why Christianity can fit in any culture (because all cultures reflect God's image imperfectly) and why our expression of Christianity must adapt when it is transferred from one culture into another (because all cultures reflect God's image uniquely). Various Latin American cultures reveal something of God's nature that is not revealed in the same way or to the same degree in Black American culture, which reveals something of God's nature that is not revealed in the same way or to the same degree in White American culture. Thus, to be colorblind is to be willfully blind to God's image as it is distinctly revealed in each ethnicity and culture. Why would any Christian want to be blind to that?


@@To be colorblind is to be willfully blind to God's image on display@@


2. To be colorblind is to be willfully blind to another's identity. 

Our ethnicities and cultures are not accidents. They are a part of God's sovereign plan for us. They are a part of who we are. They are a part of our identity. And, as is clear in the passage below, they also shape our life experiences according to God's intentions.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:26-27).

Therefore, when one person tells a person of another ethnicity, "I don't see color" they might as well be saying, "I don't see that part of you that is incredibly important to you and your culture, your family history, your life experience, and your personal identity." This is the equivalent of saying, "I don't see you." It is difficult to imagine a worse insult. And, certainly, the average evangelical would never want to communicate such a thing. Yet, that's exactly what saying "I'm colorblind" communicates to people — intended or not.


@@To be colorblind is to be willfully blind to another's identity@@


Some Christians respond by claiming the Apostle Paul teaches us to be "colorblind." They argue that we ought not find our identity in our ethnicity but, rather, in our unity to Christ and point to Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It is true that the core of our identity is in Christ. It is not true that our ethnicity, gender, or other qualities are no longer a part of who we are. Paul's point is not that these identities don't exist, but that these identities don't stand in the way of one being reconciled to God and God's diverse people. Elsewhere, Paul's own identity as an ethnic Jew leads him to write these shocking words:

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel (Romans 9:2-4a).

Paul's ethnicity is so important to his identity, that he wishes he could go to hell in place of his fellow Jews! These are not the words of one who is colorblind. These are the words of one who sees his God-given ethnicity as a valuable piece of his identity.


@@Paul's ethnicity is so important to his identity that he wishes he could go to hell in place of his fellow Jews@@


3. To be colorblind is to be blind to the uniting power of the gospel. 

It is ironic that many want to go out of their way to avoid seeing our differences when the God we worship goes out of his way to call attention to our differences.


There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two groups [ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16).

And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9).

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:9).


In each of these passages, God first calls our attention to our ethnic differences. He then calls our attention to our unity in Christ. It is the reality of our differences that makes the reality of our unity through Christ so magnificent. One of the greatest signs of the gospel's power is the visible evidence that it has united the un-unitable!

We are not in every way the same.

We are in some ways different.

And that's what makes our unity in Christ all the more glorious.

One of the reasons the idea of being colorblind is attractive is because part of us believes that the basis for our unity is our similarity. But it's not. The basis for our unity is Christ. Our differences don't hinder that truth. They magnify that truth.


@@The basis for our unity is Christ. Our differences don't hinder the truth, they magnify it@@


If you don't notice the differences in musical notes, you can't notice the beauty of harmony when very different notes are artfully brought together. In the same way, if you don't notice the differences in our ethnicities and their various cultures, you can't notice the beauty of the gospel when very different ethnicities and their various cultures are powerfully brought together.

To be colorblind is to be blind to the uniting power of the gospel. Why would any Christian want to be blind to that?


Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook