Every now and then conversations come across our paths that push us out of our comfort zones.
These conversations are not necessarily invited, but they are necessary. They can be uncomfortable and even painful. They expose our comfortable mind-sets and our justified heart issues.
They get us thinking. They are hard work.
But hard work always reaps rewards.
These conversations are one way of forcing us to renew our minds – to search Scripture for Biblical principles to inform our thinking.
Our natural default when entering the often murky waters of these conversations is that we are convinced we have the right answers and it only becomes about convincing each other about each other’s convictions.
As Rap artist, Propaganda, eloquently explains, ‘This means we are moving from seeking justice to just being right and then you center yourself as the definition of what is justice.’ Our viewpoint becomes the plumb line for truth. I just need to persuade you that you are wrong or misinformed or foolish. We are not really interested in truth, we are interested in my right and your wrong.
You see, if we believe we are right, then that presupposes that the other viewpoint is wrong. So we start off from pride, from a high horse. Our self-righteous selves condescend to listen but not to understand. We prefer intellectual intimidation instead of engagement. I am not sure you could find a clearer explanation of arrogance.
A colourful conversation that has gate-crashed our comfortable party recently has been that of interracial relationships and marriages. Like I said before, this conversation was not necessarily invited, but has been very welcome. It is good when our worldviews are challenged and questioned.
This idea of interracial relationships has raised its head timeously. It has opened a can of worms. As we relate with this issue, it exposes previous prejudices and default positions and when the light of principle shines into the dark
corners of our hearts on this issue, we start to squirm.
We cannot just push the lid back down.
The interesting and enlightening thing for me on this issue is that the parties I have engaged with have been multi-racial and the general sentiment, from whichever side of the colour line, is the following: ‘I am not against interracial relationships or marriages, but…’
Have you noticed that when the cautious ‘but…’ rears its ugly head, pragmatism and comfort are the motivators for practice instead of principle?
From this platform then, we seem to be able to rationalise and justify any position. We are clever like that. And if you are good with words, then we might as well just go home with our defeated tails between our legs and a resolve to not mess with you again.
Now to be fair, we have personally been forced to consider this issue over the past 9 years when our daughter became part of our family at the age of 7. Hers was an interracial adoption. A ½ Indian, ½ coloured little girl now has white people as her birth parents on her birth certificate. So we would have been very naïve to think this is an issue we could ignore. This issue (if it is an issue) is going to affect our family, no matter whom she marries. Her cultural identity may be white but her skin colour is not. Where does she fit in this discussion?
We can make the topic of interracial relationships very complex and complicated. We can say it is nuanced. But as John Piper would argue, it is not complex at all. It is all really quite simple. But only if we start from the humble perspective of taking Scripture as our authority and submitting to Biblical principle. Truth is so liberating.
John Piper, in his article titled, ‘Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage,’ operates from the premise that interracial marriage is not only permitted by God, but honours God, displays the Gospel for which Christ died and is good and positive.
I strongly recommend you read his article on www.desiringgod.com
He basically outlines 4 main points which he elaborates on:
All races have one ancestor in the image of God and all humans are God’s image.
The Bible forbids intermarriage between unbeliever and believer, but not between races.
In Christ our oneness is profound and transforms social differences from barriers to blessings.
Criticizing one interracial marriage (that of Moses to the Cushite woman) was severely disciplined by God.
So what are the implications of really engaging on this issue?
I will use John Piper’s words, ‘Opposition to interracial marriage is one of the deepest roots of racial distance, disrespect and hostility.’
That is a sobering statement and causes us to stop in our tracks.
You see, what comes after the ‘but…?’
The following qualifications (and they can often sound so spiritual);
Marriage is already difficult, why would you want to start by making it harder if the couple is from different cultures or races?
You must consider the children, you are going to make life harder for them.
Your children might not look like either of you (in the case of interracial not cross-cultural marriages)
It will cause complications and perhaps ‘shunning’ from the extended families etc
All plausible and fine sounding arguments, but only from a worldly perspective. My further objection to this is that we often don’t tend to call things as they really are. We are pros at inconsistency. And as you strip away at the logic, basically the argument is against relationships of DIFFERENT SKIN COLOURS.
We do not caution a white American girl from marrying a white South African guy. Two completely different cultures. We do not caution a black Zimbabwean from marrying a black Malawian. Two completely different cultures and even two completely different home languages. But you see, their skin colour is the same! We will caution the black Zambian guy from marrying a white South African girl. We will caution the white South African Afrikaans girl from marrying a black South African Zulu guy. But they are both South African! And yet, we would probably have no issue if that same white South African girl wanted to marry a white British guy. Our arguments and logic are exposed and flawed. These are deep rooted heart issues which we need to confront and humbly confess.
Once again, John Piper’s words cannot be improved upon:
‘Here is where Christ makes the difference. Christ does not call us to a prudent life, but to a God-centred, Christ-exalting, justice-advancing, counter-cultural, risk-taking life of love and courage. Will it be harder to be married to another race and will it be harder for the kids? Maybe. Maybe not. But since when is that the way a Christian thinks? Life is hard. And the more you love, the harder it gets…Christians are people who move toward need and truth and justice, not toward comfort and security. Life is hard. But God is good. And Christ is strong to help’
Those are beautiful words. Those are words of comfort and truth.
So let me take this to a logical conclusion. If, in the Church, we believe it is wise to discourage interracial marriages, then why do we not discourage transracial adoptions? If the basis of our argument is that it is hard, then surely the logic is obvious?
Let me end with another beautiful and shining example of an interracial and cross cultural marriage in the Bible. It is that of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth, the Moabite, a pagan culture cursed by God and the Jews. Ruth, the Moabite, who would have had a darker skin colour to Boaz. Ruth, the Moabite, whose home language and customs would have been foreign to Boaz. And yet Ruth, the Moabite, who loved Naomi’s God and married Boaz. Their son, Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of David and Jesus came from that line. What a beautiful romance, part of God’s perfect and sovereign plan.
This does not mean you have to pursue an interracial marriage, but for me, it does mean we are going beyond the bounds of Scripture if we discourage such a relationship in the Church.
As I said in the beginning, these conversations are hard. They are uncomfortable. But when we move out of our comfort zones and put aside our spiritually camouflaged pre-conceived ideas, meaningful and deep relationships start to develop in the Church. We paint a picture of the Gospel. Our minds are renewed and our hearts transformed. Surely this is good for us, for the world and for the glory of God?