Racism And The Cross
“I have a tongue, Madam, though yours explains well enough why I may not marry your son. You view my circumstances as unfortunate, though I cannot claim even a portion of the misfortune of those whom I most closely resemble. My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who will carry me as their shame—as I have been required to carry my own mother. Her apparent crime, to be born negro, and mine—to be the evidence. Since I wish to deny her no more than I wish to deny myself, you will pardon me for wanting a husband who feels ‘forgiveness’ of my bloodline is both unnecessary and without grace.”
In the 2013 movie, Belle, these are the words of Dido Elizabeth Belle as she turns away from a marriage that would have destroyed her. She’s the illegitimate, mixed race daughter of Captain Sir John Lindsay of the British Royal Navy. He had placed her under the care of William Murray, his uncle, the Lord Chief Justice of England, because he must return to sea. When he dies, Dido’s full care falls to her great uncle, the judge who will make the decision in the case that came to be known as the Zong massacre. Chained slaves were thrown into the sea so that their owners could claim the insurance money for their lost cargo. The judge who will decide the case has a mulatto under his care and he loves her as his daughter.
As Dido strongly proclaims her worth and exposes the stupidity of ranking human beings based on the shade of their skin, we cheer. We cheer louder when her uncle in the Zong case decides against the slave owners and sets forth a decision that became a stepping-stone to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.
As I watched this movie with one of my granddaughters, I rejoiced in this powerful victory against racism in the past in England, but tragically, it has not been destroyed in the hearts of some who claim Jesus as their Savior.
It’s time to feel the impact of Luke’s Gospel. He states that one of the historical reasons Jesus’ enemies nailed Him to the cross was the fact that He strongly stood against their national pride and exclusive racism.
In a Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus almost got killed when He stressed the healing of a Syrian leper and the miraculous feeding of a Sidonian widow (Lk. 4:25-28). Now three years later the anger intensifies as He declares who will and who will not get to sit down at the table in His Father’s Kingdom.
“And he will answer, ‘I don’t know from where you are from. Depart from me, all you workers of unrighteousness.’ And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you are cast out. Men will come from the east and west, from the north and the south and sit at the table in the Kingdom of God. And behold the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” Luke 13: 27-30
In the movie Dido’s uncle wouldn’t allow her to eat with her own family, but Jesus declared that His Father’s table welcomes anyone regardless of race or origin, the last shall be first. The only bloodline that counts at His table is whether or not we have put ourselves under the cleansing, forgiving power of the blood of Jesus.
LORD, if I am trusting Your Son today I must allow Him to shape and mold my attitudes and this includes my attitudes toward those from different races. Use me to help others celebrate the multiracial character of Your family and thanks that we can bring the Gospel to every individual regardless of their race, economic condition, or nationality.
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