A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of preaching from Genesis 10-11. (Sermon audio: here) In the midst of the message, I expressed the difference between race and ethnicity.
Race sets strong boundary marks. You are born in a race and remain in a race. You can observe and appreciate another race, but you can’t enter into it.
Ethnicities (or as the Bible calls them, “nations”) are built around cultures and language, not skin type. Therefore, you are born in an ethnicity, but you do not have to be confined by it. Not only can you study other ethicities, you can enter into them.
If the Bible teaches (and it does) that we all came from Adam, then we are from one race. In fact, the gene pool filters down to Noah and his family, so we can even trace ourselves to that same origin. Everyone at the Tower of Babel (formation of nations) was of the same race…the human race. The only other “race” in the Scriptures is the “chosen race,” a reference not to a skin color or ancestry, but a reference to those who have trusted Christ.
If I have muddied the issue, or if this is a new thought for you, I highly recommend listening to Thabiti Anyabwile’s “Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church.” Seriously, do yourself a favor. Follow the link. Listen to the sermon. Come back to this blog later, if you want to.
There was an application I wanted to bring in my sermon that time did not permit. I wanted to speak to those who have cross-ethnically adopted within our church. What are the ramifications of ethnicity on adoption, as informed by Scripture?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. It’s beautiful.
It’s a small piece of Revelation 7, a gathering of every people, language and tribe. A few years ago I quipped that I’d love it if when people saw a child of a diverse ethnicity in Greenville, they’d assume that maybe that child’s parents were from Grace. That’s not because a child of a different ethnicity is more glorifying to God than the ethnic majority in Greenville, but because the diversity helps represent the greater glory of God that already exists.
2. Enjoy entering their ethnicity.
There’s something beautiful about studying their language, traditions, foods and customs. And as you appreciate things, you can even “adopt” that element into your culture. You’re not being an imposter to enter their ethnicity, for you are not claiming to be something you are not. You’ve simply been exposed to a greater degree to the diversity of God’s humanity. Enjoy exposing them to some of their ethnic culture.
3. You won’t ruin them with your ethnicity.
Thinking in terms of race requires thinking in preservation. If too many people intermarry (for instance), and entire race could be lost. However, thinking in terms of ethnicity, nothing is lost. They can appreciate your culture as they also appreciate elements from other cultures (not even just the ethnicity they were born into). It’s ok if they start to act, think, speak like you. You are the greatest influence in their life. It’s only going to be natural.
4. Acknowledge that ethnicities are real and obvious, but not divisive.
If your child does not really look like you, don’t be offended when people notice! Ignoring our differences is a silly exercise that only leads to frustration. Instead, use it as an illustration of the gospel.
Consider Jesus. (Whether a multi-ethnic family or not.)
Present to your kids a Jewish Jesus. He’s a son of Abraham and a Son of David (Matthew 1:1). This mean He knew Aramaic, was acquainted with the Old Testament, practiced the feasts, celebrations and culture of the Jews. We don’t try to conform Jesus to our ethnicity, or that wouldn’t be an accurate Jesus. There’s no pressure to try to make Jesus “one of us.”
But Jesus died for us. Acknowledging Christ’s ethnicity does not need to isolate Him from us. But acknowledging His work unites Him to us! Christ died to purchase to Himself a people from every nation, tribe and tongue! We do not feel removed from Jesus when we recognize He is a different ethnicity from us, we are drawn to the astounding nature of His work that it is sufficient for every man!
Share with them this glorious picture of Revelation 7. Let them know that even your family is just a glimpse of the glories to come. As you enjoy the beauty of diversity around your dinner table, rejoice in the glories that will fill the Throne Room when every language, every culture will be represented!
If you’ve adopted across ethnic lines, you are not more righteous than those who have not. However, you are giving all of us a greater opportunity to grasp the righteousness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!