Embracing racial difference: never split the difference
By Hannington Muyenje, Senior Associate in the Global Campaigns Team for Tearfund.
Even as a commander in the elite Roman military, the centurion in today’s reading bore the weight of being different, of being considered an outsider. Naaman also experienced this. Although he was a general in the presidential brigade of a superpower of the day, he was not able to meet the man of God. The Ethiopian Eunuch who met Philip on his way back home was another who was different. He was reading material first written for others – not for Gentiles. He couldn't understand. Until a favored Jewish boy – Philip – brought him some revelation.
Living in Europe, away from my home in Africa, I tend to relate to all these men. Sometimes I don't think I have permission to participate in lawful civil disobedience like my white colleagues in the advocacy team. I am a foreigner, I am different!
Like the Ethiopian, my accent and interpretation of issues are sometimes unconventional. I am sometimes misunderstood and I often misunderstand others. I am different, so I tread carefully!
Like Naaman, while I am celebrated back home in Uganda, in my new environment, I am often forced to exercise humility.
However, could it be that this difference is actually my asset? Like us Africans, the centurion’s culture of respect for authority earned him the title of the man with the greatest faith in Israel. Naaman’s humility earned him wholeness. The Ethiopian’s hunger and pursuit for knowledge earned him a spot in the New Testament.
Friends, we people of color have for too long downplayed our differences. Maybe, our difference is what God will use to work for us. Embrace your uniqueness and have no apologies for your color, accent, or culture. And, like Naaman, let's watch for opportunities to humble ourselves in order to benefit from the whole of our differences. ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.’ (James 4:10)
teach me to embrace the uniqueness of differences. Help me to never split this difference, but to make the most of all of it. May this difference in race bring your kingdom acclaim.