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by Phung Banh
MATERIAL STATEMENT

Jesus transforms our cultural identities, so we can acknowledge, affirm and appreciate who God made us to be.

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JESUS’ MULTICULTURAL IDENTITY & MISSION

Andrew Rillera

Andrew joined the movement in 1999 when he left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and accepted the Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ. Andrew finds Pax by playing games with his family, reading, playing ice hockey and disc golf, and finding solitude. He has a Bachelor's in Biblical Studies (Eternity Bible College), M.A. in Theology and Ministry (Fuller Seminary), and is almost finished with a Ph.D. in New Testament (Duke). He co-wrote Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence with Preston Sprinkle and serves as an adjunct professor at Eternity Bible College. He and his wife (Karianne) and two kids (Eden & Zion) live in Durham, North Carolina.

Jesus was a brown-skinned, first-century Torah-observant Palestinian Jew. While this is an important fact that in and of itself is too easily forgotten or overlooked, there is even more to Jesus’s ethnic heritage that deserves recognition. It may be surprising to learn that Jesus had a complex, multicultural heritage according to the Gospel of Matthew. However, for those of us who, like me, a mestizo, are of mixed ethnic heritage it can also be both a source of comfort as well as a source of direction to pattern our expression of our multicultural identities on the mission of Jesus Christ.

Only Matthew mentions women in Jesus’s lineage and he significantly includes great grandmothers who were foreigners (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba; Matt 1:5–6). Some come from nations that are Israel’s paradigmatic archenemies: the Canaanites and Moabites. The Canaanites occupied the Promised Land before Israel, whom God promised to drive out. The Moabites were distant relatives of the Israelites (descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot), but they were not permitted to join Israel (Deut 23:3). 

Jesus had a complex, multicultural heritage.

Tamar was likely a Canaanite (Gen 38:2, 6), though later Jewish traditions hold she was an Aramean (north of Israel). Rahab was a Canaanite (Josh 2:1–14), who hid the Israelite spies who came to scope out Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4), who, after she was widowed, left her homeland to stay with her widowed mother-in-law in Israel and provide for her. Bathsheba is not named by Matthew, but is designated as “the [wife] of Uriah” (Matt 1:6) (note: some translations insert “Bathsheba” for clarity, but this is not in the Greek text). Uriah was a Hittite (2 Sam 11:3, 6) and the Hittites are one of the seven nations of the land of Canaan (Deut 7:1). Matthew’s elision of Bathsheba in favor of naming Uriah might signal that Solomon’s mother was also a Canaanite.

If Matthew simply wanted to include notable women, he could have chosen from women who weren’t foreigners, such as  Sarah (Abraham’s wife), Rebekah (Isaac’s wife), and Rachel (Jacob’s wife). However, Matthew intentionally highlights Jesus’s mixed ethnic heritage (among other things) through the foreign ethnicity of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and (quite possibly) Bathsheba.

Matthew also recalls Jesus’s Canaanite heritage in Jesus’s encounter with a “Canaanite” mother (Matt 15:22). This is the only mention of a “Canaanite” in the New Testament and for good reason: The Canaanites have not existed as a people group for several centuries by Jesus’s day! No one self-identified as a “Canaanite” during this time. Matthew’s use here is thus deliberate. Whereas Mark describes this woman by the proper contemporary description of “Syrophoenician” (Mark 7:26), Matthew changes this to “Canaanite.” It is possible that certain Jews in Jesus’s time used “Canaanite” as a slur to speak about foreigners they especially did not like. In any case, Matthew’s use of “Canaanite” is deliberate since it is anachronistic for his day.

Jesus is presented as an ideal bridge builder between ethnic and cultural enemies. 

“Canaanite” immediately echoes back to Jesus’s Canaanite ancestry and invites us to comprehend the significance of this encounter in light of Jesus’s heritage. In Matthew 15:22, Jesus is driving out an unclean spirit from a Canaanite woman’s daughter. This is the next generation; the future. But instead of driving the Canaanites away as perhaps expected and as the disciples suggested, Jesus drives out the demons crippling them, an act of healing that paves a future of peace between Israel and the Canaanites by healing the daughter. In that culture, it was presumed that girls become mothers. Thus, by healing the young daughter, Jesus ensures she will reach maturity and become a (Canaanite) mother herself, thereby representing a mother of the next generation. Matthew prepares his readers for this surprising twist by alerting them to Jesus’s mixed Israelite and Canaanite lineage from the beginning of his narrative. In this way, Jesus is presented as an ideal bridge builder between ethnic and cultural enemies. 

The miraculous provision of food in Matthew 15:32-39 also echoes the episode with the Canaanite mother and Jesus’s genealogy. After the first miracle of food in 14:13-21, there are twelve baskets leftover (14:20) and, after the second, there are seven (15:37). There is a lesson to be learned from these numbers (16:9–10). The twelve leftover baskets in a Jewish context strongly suggests an association of the twelve tribes of Israel (just like the twelve apostles represent the twelve tribes of Israel in 19:28). Since “seven” is commonly used as a number to signal completeness in Scripture, some take this to mean  “the fullness of the nations.” But given Jesus’s Canaanite heritage and that this episode is immediately preceded by an encounter with Canaanite mother, the “seven” is best understood here as a reference to the “seven nations in the land of Canaan” (Acts 13:19; Deut 7:1; Josh 24:11). 

Through the genealogy, Matthew prepares his readers for Jesus’s surprising ministry to Canaanites. There are definitely two Canaanites mentioned in Jesus’s genealogy (Rahab and Uriah), possibly four (Tamar and Bathsheba). Rather than being embarrassed about Jesus’s mixed ethnic heritage (let alone a mixed Canaanite one), however, Matthew purposefully shines a spotlight on it.

Matthew’s emphasis on Jesus’ Canaanite heritage does not detract from the broader application to all nations. In fact, it strengthens it. This is a narrative argument from greater to lesser: If Jesus makes possible peace and reconciliation with Canaanites, the paradigmatic enemies of Israel, and their future generations by driving out their demons, healing their infirmities, and providing for their nourishment, then how much more will he do this for any other foreign nation? 

It is both comforting and compelling to see God’s vision for a humanity at peace embodied in Jesus’s own mixed ethnic makeup and mission.

Notice how Matthew narrates the scene with the Canaanite mother at the beginning of a series of episodes of Jesus with gentiles that parallel Jesus with fellow Jews (Matt 15:21–39). These scenes answer the question: What does Jesus’s Messiahship mean not only for non-Jews, but even for those who represent the paradigmatic archenemies of Israel? We learn that it means peace and reconciliation for all. Just as Jesus heals and drives out demons from the Jews (8:16; 11:5; 14:14, 34–36), he does the same for the gentiles (15:22, 28, 30–31). And just as Jesus provides food for Jews (14:13–21), he does so for gentiles (15:32–39). And, the setting of these interactions takes place on a mountain (15:29). This evokes the Messianic prophecies about Mount Zion, to which the nations are attracted and where there will be a great feast and miraculous healings (see Isa 2:2–4; 25:6–10; 35:1–10; Mic 4:1–7; Jer 31:7–14). Matthew has not only seeded this idea of Jesus’s significance for foreigners throughout his narrative (2:1–11; 3:9; 4:15, 24–25; 8:5–13; 10:18; 11:21–24; 12:17–21; 28:16–20), but he has also made this point right from the beginning by pointing out Jesus’s mixed ethnic lineage. The Canaanites and the Moabites represent previously excluded groups, but they are united in the body of Jesus. Further, part of the significance of Jesus being the “son of Abraham” (1:1) is to link back to the promise made to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed by his seed (Gen 12:1–3; 22:18).

Jesus not only enacts the reconciliation and union of Israel and their most hated enemies by including them in his own ministry of healing and provision, he also embodies this in his own mixed ethnic makeup. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is descended from the wandering foreigner Abraham, Israelites, Canaanites, Moabites, and possibly other foreign ethnic groups (since Tamar and Bathsheba cannot be identified with certainty except that they are foreigners). Matthew teaches us that Jesus’s mixed ethnicity is something to highlight and ponder rather than shy away from. 

For myself, as someone of mixed Latino and European heritage, it is both comforting and compelling to see God’s vision for a humanity at peace embodied in Jesus’s own mixed ethnic makeup and mission.

Jesus was a brown-skinned, first-century Torah-observant Palestinian Jew. While this is an important fact that in and of itself is too easily forgotten or overlooked, there is even more to Jesus’s ethnic heritage that deserves recognition. It may be surprising to learn that Jesus had a complex, multicultural heritage according to the Gospel of Matthew. However, for those of us who, like me, a mestizo, are of mixed ethnic heritage it can also be both a source of comfort as well as a source of direction to pattern our expression of our multicultural identities on the mission of Jesus Christ.

Only Matthew mentions women in Jesus’s lineage and he significantly includes great grandmothers who were foreigners (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba; Matt 1:5–6). Some come from nations that are Israel’s paradigmatic archenemies: the Canaanites and Moabites. The Canaanites occupied the Promised Land before Israel, whom God promised to drive out. The Moabites were distant relatives of the Israelites (descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot), but they were not permitted to join Israel (Deut 23:3). 

Tamar was likely a Canaanite (Gen 38:2, 6), though later Jewish traditions hold she was an Aramean (north of Israel). Rahab was a Canaanite (Josh 2:1–14), who hid the Israelite spies who came to scope out Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite (Ruth 1:4), who, after she was widowed, left her homeland to stay with her widowed mother-in-law in Israel and provide for her. Bathsheba is not named by Matthew, but is designated as “the [wife] of Uriah” (Matt 1:6) (note: some translations insert “Bathsheba” for clarity, but this is not in the Greek text). Uriah was a Hittite (2 Sam 11:3, 6) and the Hittites are one of the seven nations of the land of Canaan (Deut 7:1). Matthew’s elision of Bathsheba in favor of naming Uriah might signal that Solomon’s mother was also a Canaanite.

If Matthew simply wanted to include notable women, he could have chosen from women who weren’t foreigners, such as  Sarah (Abraham’s wife), Rebekah (Isaac’s wife), and Rachel (Jacob’s wife). However, Matthew intentionally highlights Jesus’s mixed ethnic heritage (among other things) through the foreign ethnicity of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and (quite possibly) Bathsheba.

Matthew also recalls Jesus’s Canaanite heritage in Jesus’s encounter with a “Canaanite” mother (Matt 15:22). This is the only mention of a “Canaanite” in the New Testament and for good reason: The Canaanites have not existed as a people group for several centuries by Jesus’s day! No one self-identified as a “Canaanite” during this time. Matthew’s use here is thus deliberate. Whereas Mark describes this woman by the proper contemporary description of “Syrophoenician” (Mark 7:26), Matthew changes this to “Canaanite.” It is possible that certain Jews in Jesus’s time used “Canaanite” as a slur to speak about foreigners they especially did not like. In any case, Matthew’s use of “Canaanite” is deliberate since it is anachronistic for his day.

“Canaanite” immediately echoes back to Jesus’s Canaanite ancestry and invites us to comprehend the significance of this encounter in light of Jesus’s heritage. In Matthew 15:22, Jesus is driving out an unclean spirit from a Canaanite woman’s daughter. This is the next generation; the future. But instead of driving the Canaanites away as perhaps expected and as the disciples suggested, Jesus drives out the demons crippling them, an act of healing that paves a future of peace between Israel and the Canaanites by healing the daughter. In that culture, it was presumed that girls become mothers. Thus, by healing the young daughter, Jesus ensures she will reach maturity and become a (Canaanite) mother herself, thereby representing a mother of the next generation. Matthew prepares his readers for this surprising twist by alerting them to Jesus’s mixed Israelite and Canaanite lineage from the beginning of his narrative. In this way, Jesus is presented as an ideal bridge builder between ethnic and cultural enemies. 

The miraculous provision of food in Matthew 15:32-39 also echoes the episode with the Canaanite mother and Jesus’s genealogy. After the first miracle of food in 14:13-21, there are twelve baskets leftover (14:20) and, after the second, there are seven (15:37). There is a lesson to be learned from these numbers (16:9–10). The twelve leftover baskets in a Jewish context strongly suggests an association of the twelve tribes of Israel (just like the twelve apostles represent the twelve tribes of Israel in 19:28). Since “seven” is commonly used as a number to signal completeness in Scripture, some take this to mean  “the fullness of the nations.” But given Jesus’s Canaanite heritage and that this episode is immediately preceded by an encounter with Canaanite mother, the “seven” is best understood here as a reference to the “seven nations in the land of Canaan” (Acts 13:19; Deut 7:1; Josh 24:11). 

Through the genealogy, Matthew prepares his readers for Jesus’s surprising ministry to Canaanites. There are definitely two Canaanites mentioned in Jesus’s genealogy (Rahab and Uriah), possibly four (Tamar and Bathsheba). Rather than being embarrassed about Jesus’s mixed ethnic heritage (let alone a mixed Canaanite one), however, Matthew purposefully shines a spotlight on it.

Matthew’s emphasis on Jesus’ Canaanite heritage does not detract from the broader application to all nations. In fact, it strengthens it. This is a narrative argument from greater to lesser: If Jesus makes possible peace and reconciliation with Canaanites, the paradigmatic enemies of Israel, and their future generations by driving out their demons, healing their infirmities, and providing for their nourishment, then how much more will he do this for any other foreign nation? 

Notice how Matthew narrates the scene with the Canaanite mother at the beginning of a series of episodes of Jesus with gentiles that parallel Jesus with fellow Jews (Matt 15:21–39). These scenes answer the question: What does Jesus’s Messiahship mean not only for non-Jews, but even for those who represent the paradigmatic archenemies of Israel? We learn that it means peace and reconciliation for all. Just as Jesus heals and drives out demons from the Jews (8:16; 11:5; 14:14, 34–36), he does the same for the gentiles (15:22, 28, 30–31). And just as Jesus provides food for Jews (14:13–21), he does so for gentiles (15:32–39). And, the setting of these interactions takes place on a mountain (15:29). This evokes the Messianic prophecies about Mount Zion, to which the nations are attracted and where there will be a great feast and miraculous healings (see Isa 2:2–4; 25:6–10; 35:1–10; Mic 4:1–7; Jer 31:7–14). Matthew has not only seeded this idea of Jesus’s significance for foreigners throughout his narrative (2:1–11; 3:9; 4:15, 24–25; 8:5–13; 10:18; 11:21–24; 12:17–21; 28:16–20), but he has also made this point right from the beginning by pointing out Jesus’s mixed ethnic lineage. The Canaanites and the Moabites represent previously excluded groups, but they are united in the body of Jesus. Further, part of the significance of Jesus being the “son of Abraham” (1:1) is to link back to the promise made to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed by his seed (Gen 12:1–3; 22:18).

Jesus not only enacts the reconciliation and union of Israel and their most hated enemies by including them in his own ministry of healing and provision, he also embodies this in his own mixed ethnic makeup. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is descended from the wandering foreigner Abraham, Israelites, Canaanites, Moabites, and possibly other foreign ethnic groups (since Tamar and Bathsheba cannot be identified with certainty except that they are foreigners). Matthew teaches us that Jesus’s mixed ethnicity is something to highlight and ponder rather than shy away from. 

For myself, as someone of mixed Latino and European heritage, it is both comforting and compelling to see God’s vision for a humanity at peace embodied in Jesus’s own mixed ethnic makeup and mission.

Jesus had a complex, multicultural heritage.
Jesus is presented as an ideal bridge builder between ethnic and cultural enemies.
It is both comforting and compelling to see God’s vision for a humanity at peace embodied in Jesus’s own mixed ethnic makeup and mission.
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by Mondo Scott

JESUS BRINGS TRANSFORMATIVE HEALING TO OUR CULTURAL STORIES

Sarah Shin

Sarah Shin is the author of Beyond Colorblind (Intervarsity Press, 2019). She formerly served as the Associate National Director of Evangelism for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and is a speaker that connects ethnicity and biblically informed faith. Sarah has a master's degree in theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a master's in city planning and development from MIT. She, her husband, and daughter live in St. Andrews, Scotland, where she is pursuing more theological studies to better equip the Church.

Christians often notoriously use Paul’s famous words “there is neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28) as rationale for prizing colorblindness. They act as if differences don’t matter—as if being Christian means that culture doesn’t exist anymore. But this is an error in reading the larger passage and in reading Paul’s larger life. Galatians 3:28 is in the context of Paul’s affirmation that our external markers of difference don’t determine our standing before God. It’s about equality of spiritual status; it’s not about cultural obliteration. Throughout Paul’s writings, he makes clear that his faith in Jesus transformed and redeemed (and did not replace) his cultural identity. To understand this more, we need to explore a bit more of his story—and the ways his cultural identity serves as a beautiful display of Christ’s new work in him.

The Importance of Honoring Culture

Paul grew up as the child of a people who had been torn apart by civil war, foreign oppression, poverty, and exile for 600 years (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome). He has a strikingly unusual heritage in that he was ethnically Jewish and yet was also a citizen of the Roman empire which represented foreign rule and oppression of Jewish lives, culture, and land. Paul’s family was from Tarsus, an influential city located outside of Israel to the north in Asia Minor, and yet he was trained in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As a result, he was fluent in the Hebrew scriptures as well as Greek philosophy and poetry. He was culturally fluent in his Jewish and Roman worlds. This is why he can quote Greek writers effortlessly in Athens (Acts 17:16-32) and also skillfully cite and expound on the Torah. Paul says the following of his ethnic and academic pedigree: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Paul goes on to say that he considers all these identity markers as rubbish (Phil 3:8), but does he mean that they don’t matter? Let me convince you otherwise.

Throughout Paul’s writings, he makes clear that his faith in Jesus transformed and redeemed (and did not replace) his cultural identity.

Paul insists that circumcision is not the basis for faith; Christ is what includes Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God. And yet, though Paul refuses to circumcise Gentile believer and companion Titus (Galatians 2:3), Paul circumcises Timothy, whose mother is Jewish and whose father is Greek (Acts 16:3). Why does he do this? Because Paul wants to honor the culture of the Jewish believers they would meet along the way. To be an uncircumcised Jew was to say, “I reject and despise my people”—which would surely break trust (as opposed to Titus—if he were to be circumcised, he would be saying, “I did this to prove my conversion to faith”). To use circumcision as proof of conversion was rubbish--but it was not rubbish to honor culture.

A modern-day example of this would be when Asian and Asian-Americans become Christian. Honoring your parents is high currency in Asian culture. New believers may often be told to follow Jesus through a Western lens and to assert their own individualism (“be their own person”) when thinking about their new faith impacts their life choices and decision. Suddenly, there is a higher authority than the parent for this Asian person. Without proper coaching on how to honor their parents while not agreeing with them, these believers will unfortunately break trust with their parents and also cause their parents to distrust Christianity. It is far easier to “obey” a parent and do what they say without having an honoring relationship with them that says, “I love and respect you, but I disagree with you”—and navigating the much more demanding challenge of harder conversations and conflict while holding onto love. 

Being Korean American, when I decided to go into ministry, I knew my father would be displeased—the hope that his children would have a better life was what kept him persevering through economic hardship and family suffering. Before changing careers from city planning to ministry, I went on walks with him every month where I let him vent: “What will my friends and family say? What do you think kept your mother and me going through all those years?” These were not easy walks. But I needed to have the integrity to say, “I hear you. And even if I don’t agree with you, I want you to know that I love and respect you.” My father’s very young faith and trust in God was at stake in how I honored him in my choices.

When Jesus transforms Paul’s cultural identity, all the beautiful parts of his heritage are amplified, and the broken parts experience healing and restoration.

We see Paul honoring culture after his many missionary journeys in Acts 21, where the apostles in Jerusalem rejoice at the stories of Gentile believers and tell him that rumors have been going around that Paul teaches the Jews among the Gentiles to “turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:21). To counter the rumor, they suggest the following:

“There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.” (Acts 21:23-24) 

The apostles ask Paul to undergo ritual purification—not to prove that he is a Christian, but to honor his cultural community as a Christian. For Paul, being a powerful Christian witness meant being a Jew that honored his culture. His faith in Jesus should make him amplify how he honors others in his own context and people.

Paul complies. In fact, Paul never repudiates his story and identity. He recounts the story of his upbringing, conversion, and living as a Jewish Christian before the crowds in Athens, the mob and the Sadducees and Pharisees in Jerusalem, and King Agrippa. He asserts his Roman citizenship. He uses his complex cultural background in service of the kingdom. He repents of his former self-protective ethno-centricism and understands his cultural identity as a beautiful space where Jesus breathes life and healing in him for others. When Jesus transforms Paul’s cultural identity, all the beautiful parts of his heritage are amplified, and the broken parts experience healing and restoration. Paul was descended from people whose culture was mocked and threatened by Greek rulers—and where Zealot and Pharisee attempts at rebellion were met with mass crucifixions of hundreds of men at public roadsides. To then preach a crucified and resurrected Messiah to the Jews in every synagogue in the Roman empire and every Gentile who would listen—was an unfathomable paradox that Paul chose to live each day as a Christian.

A Different Way of Being Our Cultural Selves

We live in turbulent times full of racial and political tensions. Colorblindness has been exposed as a mirage that does little to combat white supremacists who enact violence; colorblindness offers no comfort nor solution to the pain of black and brown mothers and fathers who weep over their children; and colorblindness says that our cultural and ethnic identities don’t matter. What an unbiblical lie. Jesus was unafraid of the Samaritan woman’s pointed questions about Jew-Samaritan tension in John 4, and in his honoring kindness towards her, he showed both her and the disciples with him a different way of being their ethnic and cultural selves. Paul’s life is filled with interacting with the other. Revelation affirms that all tribes and languages will be present before the Lamb at the end of the ages. Should we not see our cultural and ethnic stories as vehicles for kingdom living?

We should not offer a Jesus and gospel that does not offer hope and deliverance for the suffering of black and brown people, because that is an unbiblical lie. We should not offer a gospel that does not confront places of ethnic and racial division and white supremacy, because no idol should be left to serve as false gods in the gospel that offers freedom and new life. Jesus offers new life that doesn’t replace our cultural identities—he restores them for what they should and could be—for the flourishing of ourselves and the world. 

Should we not see our cultural and ethnic stories as vehicles for kingdom living?

I have been blessed by many leaders who stewarded their cultural identities to bless others. When I led a spring break urban service project for university students many years ago, the head pastor of a large Latino church welcomed us and allowed us to stay in the basement of his building for free as we volunteered for different organizations that served the local neighborhood. Wisdom and quiet strength flowed from his fatherly welcome and familia-embrace of us, complete strangers. My husband and I have been mentored by black pastor-professors who have encouraged us to dream, speak, and persevere in faith through the highest highs and the lowest lows of life. We have learned so much from how they refused to let go of their blackness and instead use their power, voice, and humor to challenge systems, shepherd change, and multiply leaders. I have watched a Filipino-American woman lead one of the best collaborative planning meetings I have ever seen. Everyone felt heard and seen; we ate out of her hand as she led us, attuned to the needs of the community and also aware of and willing to use her spiritual authority as our leader. She was a pivotal voice who encouraged my own dreaming of more school. I have watched white pastor friends choose to engage in compassionate loving of the other and challenge their congregations to confront their own biases and speak up in word and deed about anti-blackness and racism in complex times. Jesus looks good in all of these people—they are not trapped by what the world tells them they should be. Their cultural and ethnic stories serve as beautiful displays of Christ’s new life and work.

During a seminar many years ago, I heard the late theologian Lamin Sanneh say that every culture is like a bay of water awaiting the cargo of Christ. When Christ lands like a water plane in the bay, he looks at beauty and says, “I made that. It is beautiful and good!” He then looks at brokenness (idolatry, injustice, racism) and says, “I want to heal that and fill it with Myself.” Sanneh articulated a definition of cultural redemption that doesn’t obliterate heritage but also confronts idolatry of all forms—including racism and injustice.

When Jesus redeems and recovers our stories, he affirms the beauty and good placed in us: the honoring of the elder and family, the story of righteous, embodied, injustice-defying faith. And he also shows us our scars from family, the idols that have been left standing, the golden calves unquestioned, and says, I wanted to excavate those and fill them with Myself. As we experience healing and embrace the beauty of our stories, we will instead be able to prophetically challenge the idolatries in our families and society and point to a different way of being who we are, in our skin and culture and context, for the healing of a broken and hurting world.

Christians often notoriously use Paul’s famous words “there is neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28) as rationale for prizing colorblindness. They act as if differences don’t matter—as if being Christian means that culture doesn’t exist anymore. But this is an error in reading the larger passage and in reading Paul’s larger life. Galatians 3:28 is in the context of Paul’s affirmation that our external markers of difference don’t determine our standing before God. It’s about equality of spiritual status; it’s not about cultural obliteration. Throughout Paul’s writings, he makes clear that his faith in Jesus transformed and redeemed (and did not replace) his cultural identity. To understand this more, we need to explore a bit more of his story—and the ways his cultural identity serves as a beautiful display of Christ’s new work in him.

The Importance of Honoring Culture

Paul grew up as the child of a people who had been torn apart by civil war, foreign oppression, poverty, and exile for 600 years (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome). He has a strikingly unusual heritage in that he was ethnically Jewish and yet was also a citizen of the Roman empire which represented foreign rule and oppression of Jewish lives, culture, and land. Paul’s family was from Tarsus, an influential city located outside of Israel to the north in Asia Minor, and yet he was trained in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As a result, he was fluent in the Hebrew scriptures as well as Greek philosophy and poetry. He was culturally fluent in his Jewish and Roman worlds. This is why he can quote Greek writers effortlessly in Athens (Acts 17:16-32) and also skillfully cite and expound on the Torah. Paul says the following of his ethnic and academic pedigree: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Paul goes on to say that he considers all these identity markers as rubbish (Phil 3:8), but does he mean that they don’t matter? Let me convince you otherwise.

Paul insists that circumcision is not the basis for faith; Christ is what includes Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God. And yet, though Paul refuses to circumcise Gentile believer and companion Titus (Galatians 2:3), Paul circumcises Timothy, whose mother is Jewish and whose father is Greek (Acts 16:3). Why does he do this? Because Paul wants to honor the culture of the Jewish believers they would meet along the way. To be an uncircumcised Jew was to say, “I reject and despise my people”—which would surely break trust (as opposed to Titus—if he were to be circumcised, he would be saying, “I did this to prove my conversion to faith”). To use circumcision as proof of conversion was rubbish--but it was not rubbish to honor culture.

A modern-day example of this would be when Asian and Asian-Americans become Christian. Honoring your parents is high currency in Asian culture. New believers may often be told to follow Jesus through a Western lens and to assert their own individualism (“be their own person”) when thinking about their new faith impacts their life choices and decision. Suddenly, there is a higher authority than the parent for this Asian person. Without proper coaching on how to honor their parents while not agreeing with them, these believers will unfortunately break trust with their parents and also cause their parents to distrust Christianity. It is far easier to “obey” a parent and do what they say without having an honoring relationship with them that says, “I love and respect you, but I disagree with you”—and navigating the much more demanding challenge of harder conversations and conflict while holding onto love. 

Being Korean American, when I decided to go into ministry, I knew my father would be displeased—the hope that his children would have a better life was what kept him persevering through economic hardship and family suffering. Before changing careers from city planning to ministry, I went on walks with him every month where I let him vent: “What will my friends and family say? What do you think kept your mother and me going through all those years?” These were not easy walks. But I needed to have the integrity to say, “I hear you. And even if I don’t agree with you, I want you to know that I love and respect you.” My father’s very young faith and trust in God was at stake in how I honored him in my choices.

We see Paul honoring culture after his many missionary journeys in Acts 21, where the apostles in Jerusalem rejoice at the stories of Gentile believers and tell him that rumors have been going around that Paul teaches the Jews among the Gentiles to “turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:21). To counter the rumor, they suggest the following:

“There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.” (Acts 21:23-24) 

The apostles ask Paul to undergo ritual purification—not to prove that he is a Christian, but to honor his cultural community as a Christian. For Paul, being a powerful Christian witness meant being a Jew that honored his culture. His faith in Jesus should make him amplify how he honors others in his own context and people.

Paul complies. In fact, Paul never repudiates his story and identity. He recounts the story of his upbringing, conversion, and living as a Jewish Christian before the crowds in Athens, the mob and the Sadducees and Pharisees in Jerusalem, and King Agrippa. He asserts his Roman citizenship. He uses his complex cultural background in service of the kingdom. He repents of his former self-protective ethno-centricism and understands his cultural identity as a beautiful space where Jesus breathes life and healing in him for others. When Jesus transforms Paul’s cultural identity, all the beautiful parts of his heritage are amplified, and the broken parts experience healing and restoration. Paul was descended from people whose culture was mocked and threatened by Greek rulers—and where Zealot and Pharisee attempts at rebellion were met with mass crucifixions of hundreds of men at public roadsides. To then preach a crucified and resurrected Messiah to the Jews in every synagogue in the Roman empire and every Gentile who would listen—was an unfathomable paradox that Paul chose to live each day as a Christian.

A Different Way of Being Our Cultural Selves

We live in turbulent times full of racial and political tensions. Colorblindness has been exposed as a mirage that does little to combat white supremacists who enact violence; colorblindness offers no comfort nor solution to the pain of black and brown mothers and fathers who weep over their children; and colorblindness says that our cultural and ethnic identities don’t matter. What an unbiblical lie. Jesus was unafraid of the Samaritan woman’s pointed questions about Jew-Samaritan tension in John 4, and in his honoring kindness towards her, he showed both her and the disciples with him a different way of being their ethnic and cultural selves. Paul’s life is filled with interacting with the other. Revelation affirms that all tribes and languages will be present before the Lamb at the end of the ages. Should we not see our cultural and ethnic stories as vehicles for kingdom living?

We should not offer a Jesus and gospel that does not offer hope and deliverance for the suffering of black and brown people, because that is an unbiblical lie. We should not offer a gospel that does not confront places of ethnic and racial division and white supremacy, because no idol should be left to serve as false gods in the gospel that offers freedom and new life. Jesus offers new life that doesn’t replace our cultural identities—he restores them for what they should and could be—for the flourishing of ourselves and the world. 

I have been blessed by many leaders who stewarded their cultural identities to bless others. When I led a spring break urban service project for university students many years ago, the head pastor of a large Latino church welcomed us and allowed us to stay in the basement of his building for free as we volunteered for different organizations that served the local neighborhood. Wisdom and quiet strength flowed from his fatherly welcome and familia-embrace of us, complete strangers. My husband and I have been mentored by black pastor-professors who have encouraged us to dream, speak, and persevere in faith through the highest highs and the lowest lows of life. We have learned so much from how they refused to let go of their blackness and instead use their power, voice, and humor to challenge systems, shepherd change, and multiply leaders. I have watched a Filipino-American woman lead one of the best collaborative planning meetings I have ever seen. Everyone felt heard and seen; we ate out of her hand as she led us, attuned to the needs of the community and also aware of and willing to use her spiritual authority as our leader. She was a pivotal voice who encouraged my own dreaming of more school. I have watched white pastor friends choose to engage in compassionate loving of the other and challenge their congregations to confront their own biases and speak up in word and deed about anti-blackness and racism in complex times. Jesus looks good in all of these people—they are not trapped by what the world tells them they should be. Their cultural and ethnic stories serve as beautiful displays of Christ’s new life and work.

During a seminar many years ago, I heard the late theologian Lamin Sanneh say that every culture is like a bay of water awaiting the cargo of Christ. When Christ lands like a water plane in the bay, he looks at beauty and says, “I made that. It is beautiful and good!” He then looks at brokenness (idolatry, injustice, racism) and says, “I want to heal that and fill it with Myself.” Sanneh articulated a definition of cultural redemption that doesn’t obliterate heritage but also confronts idolatry of all forms—including racism and injustice.

When Jesus redeems and recovers our stories, he affirms the beauty and good placed in us: the honoring of the elder and family, the story of righteous, embodied, injustice-defying faith. And he also shows us our scars from family, the idols that have been left standing, the golden calves unquestioned, and says, I wanted to excavate those and fill them with Myself. As we experience healing and embrace the beauty of our stories, we will instead be able to prophetically challenge the idolatries in our families and society and point to a different way of being who we are, in our skin and culture and context, for the healing of a broken and hurting world.

Throughout Paul’s writings, he makes clear that his faith in Jesus transformed and redeemed (and did not replace) his cultural identity.
When Jesus transforms Paul’s cultural identity, all the beautiful parts of his heritage are amplified, and the broken parts experience healing and restoration.
Should we not see our cultural and ethnic stories as vehicles for kingdom living?
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by Mondo Scott

RECOVERING WHITE IDENTITY

Anna Faircloth Feingold

Anna Faircloth Feingold is a member of PAX's Board of Directors. She is a post-conviction attorney, policy advocate, educator, and mom. After many years in Los Angeles, she now lives in Somerville, MA, with her husband, their toddler, and their cat.

In her piece “White Debt,” author Eula Biss relays a story of talking about slavery and Jim Crow with her young son. Biss, who is white, shares that, after her explanation of American history, her son put his head in his hands and said, “I don’t want to be on this team.”

For me, this story conveys how many white people (like myself) feel when confronting racial privilege in America and our complicity in it; when we learn that the color of our skin privileges us within an unfair system that is fueled by the disprivilege, and even oppression, of people of color; and when we learn that we have been absorbing the benefits of that system our whole lives – benefits that are not neutral or natural, but the product of calculated choices that rig the game and deny others what they rightfully deserve.

What do you do as a white person when you discover that you belong, indelibly, to a legacy that doesn’t align with who you want to be?

As a white person, my identity is inextricably bound up in this morass, even if I don’t want it to be. This is why the story about Biss’s son resonates with me. It resonates, not just because it expresses difficult emotions that I often share – shame, despair, a sense of helplessness – but also because it is fundamentally about identity and “team” membership. What do you do as a white person when you discover that you belong, indelibly, to a legacy that doesn’t align with who you want to be?

Seeing Who We Are

In thinking about white identity, I find the story of Zacchaeus in the book of Luke to be helpful. Luke 19 says that Zacchaeus was a “chief tax collector” (Luke 19:2). He was a Jew employed by the occupation Roman government – and therefore seen as a traitor and a sellout by fellow Jews. As “chief,” he likely oversaw a fleet of men who actually collected taxes. Tax collectors were notorious for exploitative behavior and unfairly benefitting from their positions of power, and the Bible states unequivocally that Zacchaeus was “rich” (v. 2). In the story, Jesus is approaching Jericho (a commercial center), and Zacchaeus climbs a tree to see him because he is too short to see over the crowd of people (v. 4). Jesus sees him, calls him down, and stays at his house (v. 5). The crowds start to “grumble” that Jesus would associate with Zacchaeus, who is a “sinner” (v. 7). Zacchaeus responds to Jesus, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much” (v. 8). Jesus responds: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (vv. 9-10).

There are several things I find instructive about this story. First, when Zacchaeus hears Jesus is coming, he is curious. When he knew he couldn’t see over the crowd, he “ran ahead” to where Jesus was going to be, and went to the trouble to climb a tree (v. 4). He then “hurried down” and was “happy to welcome” Jesus into his home (v. 6). This is notable to me, in part, because Jesus’ presence was likely disruptive to Zacchaeus’s identity and the status quo of his life. The passage clearly states that Zacchaeus is “rich” (v. 2). Just one chapter earlier, Jesus tells a rich ruler to sell all he had if he wanted to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18-25). Zacchaeus may not have known about this specific encounter, but he had clearly heard about Jesus, who did not have a reputation as a friend of the wealthy. Yet, instead of hiding from a potential threat, Zacchaeus puts in some effort to learn more and draws close with eagerness.

Zacchaeus makes immediate (and ongoing) reparations for how he has benefited from an unfair system.

Second, in the face of questions about his privilege, Zacchaeus is not defensive. As the crowd grumbles, and even openly criticizes him, Zacchaeus does not lash out. He does not try to explain why the benefits that had accrued to him were actually deserved. He does not try to deflect or pass along blame or point out flaws in his accusers. He “stood there” (Luke 19:8) – present to the criticism, not trying to escape the discomfort.

Third, Zacchaeus responds in a way that accepts the truth and owns his privilege. Interestingly, he does not respond to the crowd that accused him. But he answers to Jesus, holding himself accountable, and treating the indictment as worthy of response. His particular approach of paying back those whom he defrauded four times over is, in itself, a powerful statement of accountability. Under Mosaic law, a four-times payment was how one made restitution for theft (Exodus 22:1). Thus, although the legal system permitted the benefit Zacchaeus accrued, he chooses to treat that benefit as an illicit act causing criminal harm, and to provide restitution accordingly. The system did not treat the benefit to Zacchaeus as theft. But he holds himself to a higher standard than the worldly system in which he operates.

Fourth, Zacchaeus makes immediate (and ongoing) reparations for how he has benefited from an unfair system. Although English translations record Zacchaeus as saying “I will give to the poor” and “I will pay back,” the original text suggests that he made these statements in the present tense (“I give to the poor” and “I pay back”) (Luke 19:8n; Jewish Annotated New Testament). To the extent Zacchaeus had not already undertaken this reparation practice, he does not put it off into the future – he starts immediately. He also recognizes that it will be ongoing: He says he will make the four-times payment “if I have defrauded anyone of anything,” thus committing to a continuing investigation of his past actions and the damaging impact of his involvement in a system.

Reimagining Who We Can Be

The story of Zacchaeus offers a model for how people with power can live in a way that sheds themselves of systems-based benefits. Zacchaeus could have denied his complicity, and refused to be introspective. He could have argued that he had “worked really hard” to become chief tax collector. But he didn’t. He was humble. He listened. He didn’t flee the discomfort. And he took action to set aside some of the power the system afforded him —really, to use that power for those who had been denied it.

When I live in a way that seeks to dismantle my unfairly obtained power, I do more than just act in a way that is honorable. I do more than just try to live like Jesus (i.e., live in a way that lays down all power). I also step into and inhabit my full spiritual identity as a white person embodying the image of God.

But Zacchaeus’s story is not just a story about suggested action steps for the privileged – it is also a story about identity. After Zacchaeus shares the actions he is taking, Jesus calls him a “son of Abraham” (v. 9). In this, Jesus does more than approve what Zacchaeus did – he identifies him as belonging to a group. Jesus gives him a spiritual identity that is not limited by ethnicity or rigid social category, but instead recovers and redeems those aspects of who Zacchaeus is through how he chooses to live.  

That Jesus calls Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham” is even more notable because this is the very identity that, in a separate encounter, some Jews had repeatedly used to try to deflect Jesus’ suggestion that they consider how they lived (John 8:31-59). In a protracted conversation, Jesus urges these Jews to continue in his word and seek the truth (assuring them that the truth would set them free). In contrast to Zacchaeus, the Jews resist Jesus’ implication that their lives and behavior are not above reproach. They push back, over and over, raising this claimed spiritual identity as a defense, even to mere introspection (vv. 33, 39). They mock Jesus, challenge him, accuse him, call him an ethnic slur, say he is demon possessed, and ultimately seek to kill him (vv. 48, 53, 57, 59) – all because he suggested that they weren’t perfect and could benefit from some self-reflection. Ultimately, Jesus questions whether they are true descendants of Abraham. Unlike Zacchaeus, who lowered his defenses when his privilege was challenged, these Jews are told by Jesus, “there is no place in you for my word” (v. 37).

In confronting my identity as a white person, and the ways in which it is bound up with privilege, the story of Zacchaeus gives me encouragement. Although the complicity in a system of privilege that flows from being white can make me feel shame and despair, I know that this is not the only thing that can come from my whiteness. I know that the way God created me is not a mistake, and that everything that God creates is good and beautiful. When I live in a way that seeks to dismantle my unfairly obtained power, I do more than just act in a way that is honorable. I do more than just try to live like Jesus (i.e., live in a way that lays down all power). I also step into and inhabit my full spiritual identity as a white person embodying the image of God. As Biss tells her son, he can refuse to play by his team’s rules: White people have the choice to “refuse to act white” – which is to say, “refuse to collude,” as Biss elaborates. And I agree. But perhaps playing by different rules can engender a different team altogether.

In her piece “White Debt,” author Eula Biss relays a story of talking about slavery and Jim Crow with her young son. Biss, who is white, shares that, after her explanation of American history, her son put his head in his hands and said, “I don’t want to be on this team.”

For me, this story conveys how many white people (like myself) feel when confronting racial privilege in America and our complicity in it; when we learn that the color of our skin privileges us within an unfair system that is fueled by the disprivilege, and even oppression, of people of color; and when we learn that we have been absorbing the benefits of that system our whole lives – benefits that are not neutral or natural, but the product of calculated choices that rig the game and deny others what they rightfully deserve.

As a white person, my identity is inextricably bound up in this morass, even if I don’t want it to be. This is why the story about Biss’s son resonates with me. It resonates, not just because it expresses difficult emotions that I often share – shame, despair, a sense of helplessness – but also because it is fundamentally about identity and “team” membership. What do you do as a white person when you discover that you belong, indelibly, to a legacy that doesn’t align with who you want to be?

Seeing Who We Are

In thinking about white identity, I find the story of Zacchaeus in the book of Luke to be helpful. Luke 19 says that Zacchaeus was a “chief tax collector” (Luke 19:2). He was a Jew employed by the occupation Roman government – and therefore seen as a traitor and a sellout by fellow Jews. As “chief,” he likely oversaw a fleet of men who actually collected taxes. Tax collectors were notorious for exploitative behavior and unfairly benefitting from their positions of power, and the Bible states unequivocally that Zacchaeus was “rich” (v. 2). In the story, Jesus is approaching Jericho (a commercial center), and Zacchaeus climbs a tree to see him because he is too short to see over the crowd of people (v. 4). Jesus sees him, calls him down, and stays at his house (v. 5). The crowds start to “grumble” that Jesus would associate with Zacchaeus, who is a “sinner” (v. 7). Zacchaeus responds to Jesus, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much” (v. 8). Jesus responds: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (vv. 9-10).

There are several things I find instructive about this story. First, when Zacchaeus hears Jesus is coming, he is curious. When he knew he couldn’t see over the crowd, he “ran ahead” to where Jesus was going to be, and went to the trouble to climb a tree (v. 4). He then “hurried down” and was “happy to welcome” Jesus into his home (v. 6). This is notable to me, in part, because Jesus’ presence was likely disruptive to Zacchaeus’s identity and the status quo of his life. The passage clearly states that Zacchaeus is “rich” (v. 2). Just one chapter earlier, Jesus tells a rich ruler to sell all he had if he wanted to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18-25). Zacchaeus may not have known about this specific encounter, but he had clearly heard about Jesus, who did not have a reputation as a friend of the wealthy. Yet, instead of hiding from a potential threat, Zacchaeus puts in some effort to learn more and draws close with eagerness.

Second, in the face of questions about his privilege, Zacchaeus is not defensive. As the crowd grumbles, and even openly criticizes him, Zacchaeus does not lash out. He does not try to explain why the benefits that had accrued to him were actually deserved. He does not try to deflect or pass along blame or point out flaws in his accusers. He “stood there” (Luke 19:8) – present to the criticism, not trying to escape the discomfort.

Third, Zacchaeus responds in a way that accepts the truth and owns his privilege. Interestingly, he does not respond to the crowd that accused him. But he answers to Jesus, holding himself accountable, and treating the indictment as worthy of response. His particular approach of paying back those whom he defrauded four times over is, in itself, a powerful statement of accountability. Under Mosaic law, a four-times payment was how one made restitution for theft (Exodus 22:1). Thus, although the legal system permitted the benefit Zacchaeus accrued, he chooses to treat that benefit as an illicit act causing criminal harm, and to provide restitution accordingly. The system did not treat the benefit to Zacchaeus as theft. But he holds himself to a higher standard than the worldly system in which he operates.

Fourth, Zacchaeus makes immediate (and ongoing) reparations for how he has benefited from an unfair system. Although English translations record Zacchaeus as saying “I will give to the poor” and “I will pay back,” the original text suggests that he made these statements in the present tense (“I give to the poor” and “I pay back”) (Luke 19:8n; Jewish Annotated New Testament). To the extent Zacchaeus had not already undertaken this reparation practice, he does not put it off into the future – he starts immediately. He also recognizes that it will be ongoing: He says he will make the four-times payment “if I have defrauded anyone of anything,” thus committing to a continuing investigation of his past actions and the damaging impact of his involvement in a system.

Reimagining Who We Can Be

The story of Zacchaeus offers a model for how people with power can live in a way that sheds themselves of systems-based benefits. Zacchaeus could have denied his complicity, and refused to be introspective. He could have argued that he had “worked really hard” to become chief tax collector. But he didn’t. He was humble. He listened. He didn’t flee the discomfort. And he took action to set aside some of the power the system afforded him —really, to use that power for those who had been denied it.

But Zacchaeus’s story is not just a story about suggested action steps for the privileged – it is also a story about identity. After Zacchaeus shares the actions he is taking, Jesus calls him a “son of Abraham” (v. 9). In this, Jesus does more than approve what Zacchaeus did – he identifies him as belonging to a group. Jesus gives him a spiritual identity that is not limited by ethnicity or rigid social category, but instead recovers and redeems those aspects of who Zacchaeus is through how he chooses to live.  

That Jesus calls Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham” is even more notable because this is the very identity that, in a separate encounter, some Jews had repeatedly used to try to deflect Jesus’ suggestion that they consider how they lived (John 8:31-59). In a protracted conversation, Jesus urges these Jews to continue in his word and seek the truth (assuring them that the truth would set them free). In contrast to Zacchaeus, the Jews resist Jesus’ implication that their lives and behavior are not above reproach. They push back, over and over, raising this claimed spiritual identity as a defense, even to mere introspection (vv. 33, 39). They mock Jesus, challenge him, accuse him, call him an ethnic slur, say he is demon possessed, and ultimately seek to kill him (vv. 48, 53, 57, 59) – all because he suggested that they weren’t perfect and could benefit from some self-reflection. Ultimately, Jesus questions whether they are true descendants of Abraham. Unlike Zacchaeus, who lowered his defenses when his privilege was challenged, these Jews are told by Jesus, “there is no place in you for my word” (v. 37).

In confronting my identity as a white person, and the ways in which it is bound up with privilege, the story of Zacchaeus gives me encouragement. Although the complicity in a system of privilege that flows from being white can make me feel shame and despair, I know that this is not the only thing that can come from my whiteness. I know that the way God created me is not a mistake, and that everything that God creates is good and beautiful. When I live in a way that seeks to dismantle my unfairly obtained power, I do more than just act in a way that is honorable. I do more than just try to live like Jesus (i.e., live in a way that lays down all power). I also step into and inhabit my full spiritual identity as a white person embodying the image of God. As Biss tells her son, he can refuse to play by his team’s rules: White people have the choice to “refuse to act white” – which is to say, “refuse to collude,” as Biss elaborates. And I agree. But perhaps playing by different rules can engender a different team altogether.

What do you do as a white person when you discover that you belong, indelibly, to a legacy that doesn’t align with who you want to be?
Zacchaeus makes immediate (and ongoing) reparations for how he has benefited from an unfair system.
When I live in a way that seeks to dismantle my unfairly obtained power, I do more than just act in a way that is honorable. I do more than just try to live like Jesus (i.e., live in a way that lays down all power). I also step into and inhabit my full spiritual identity as a white person embodying the image of God.
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