A few topics of conversation are particularly polarizing: religion, politics, and increasingly race and ethnicity. Most people feel like they have to walk on eggshells in conversations about the latter. And of course, others feel like dialogue about race and ethnicity doesn’t really apply to them, so they apathetically avoid it completely.
But not only should we as Christians be talking about race, but we should be the ones best equipped to be at the forefront of the conversation, and best resourced to be teaching our children about it as well. But over time, I have heard three bad excuses for not teaching our children about race and ethnicity.
1. Children Won’t Understand
I’ll never forget the day my son began to realize that his mommy and daddy looked different from one another. His little eyes would glance back and forth. “Mommy is brown; Daddy is peach,” he’d say. He knew from age two that people looked different from one another. And while we knew he wouldn’t fully understand all the mysteries of God’s creation, he could understand some basics even then: Mommy and Daddy were created by God.
Kids begin to pick up on things much earlier than we tend to think. And once our children are exposed to the culture, school, or even church, they will begin to soak in all that they’re observing. They will learn from us, or they will learn from others.
We want to be ahead of our society in teaching our children. That is one reason it is important that we give our children a biblical foundation for creation, the fall, redemption, and what Jesus has accomplished through the cross for every tribe, tongue, and nation. As Christians — and as parents — we are in the business of planting seeds we pray will blossom into a deep love for one’s neighbor.
Don’t wait. Children may not be ready to learn a full theology of the imago Dei, but they can understand that every human being is made by God. They might not be able to grasp the concept of all tribes, tongues, and nations, but they can look at pictures of different people and learn to celebrate the differences. They may not yet understand justification, but they’ll understand that Jesus died for everyone who would believe. They may not fully grasp adoption, but they can understand that their church friends are their brothers and sisters — and they have a colorful family.
2. Race Is a Political Issue
The United States has been embattled with racial division and strife since its inception. From slavery to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to police brutality, we’ve never had an era where we as a nation have enjoyed full racial peace and unity. It’s no wonder that so often this topic is framed around politics and history. But the church should speak a better (and different) word.
God created the nations. God created ethnicity. God created the various tongues. God has created every person on this earth in his image; every human life is valuable to him. Are politics important to this conversation? Absolutely! I thank God for every politician and activist that made it possible for brown and white children to now play together, swim together, and attend school together. But the Bible gives parents and children a foundation for why equality is important to God and how the gospel affects this discussion and our understanding of race and ethnicity.
If we can build a foundation based on biblical truth, then I think it will be easier to tackle those other areas that touch on the topic of race and ethnicity. Ultimately, this is about people made in the image of God. So, if we can gain understanding about how all of us were created equally by God and all of us need the same saving grace, then perhaps we can begin to work towards really loving one another. And I hope that as we love one another, we celebrate our differences!
Race and ethnicity is not merely a political issue. More importantly, it’s a gospel issue. Paul’s proclamation, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in Ephesians 2 gives us a gospel message and hope for this conversation:
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13–16)
This is our proclamation to our children. Let’s rescue the topic from the culture and politics, and not allow it to be the place we find these conversations happening most frequently. Christians should be the leading voices in racial unity and everything else the gospel has accomplished.
3. We Want Our Children to Be Color-Blind
Well-meaning parents often attempt to teach their kids to be color-blind. It’s a term I hear often, and one that many use to express that they are not racist: “I’m color-blind,” they might say. “I don’t see color.” Besides the fact that this isn’t accurate, it also isn’t necessary.
One of the most important reasons to recognize the precious colors of God’s creation in human beings is that God doesn’t erase these distinctions in Scripture. The oft-quoted passage in Revelation reveals to us that not only will there be many colors making up the nations of the world when Jesus returns, but these tribes and tongues and nations will be worshiping together (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). This is a beautiful picture of the reconciliation work of our Lord — first in reconciling us to himself, then in reconciling us to one another. Heaven will be filled — gloriously! — with people of all colors.
Gospel for All Nations
Perhaps the best news for us today is that the gospel is for all nations. God celebrates his creation and the redemption of all people. The Bible tells us that we sinned greatly, putting everything out of order (Genesis 3). So throughout all of Scripture, God is working toward the redemption of all peoples through Christ (Galatians 3:8; Ephesians 2). And he will be glorified on that last day when all nations are worshiping together, because it will be a fulfillment of his promise to redeem every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Don’t these gospel truths make your heart leap for joy? Let’s celebrate God’s creation! Like the glorious vision of the last day, let’s see the unique beauty of God’s created people.
When it comes to teaching our children, instead of trying to ignore or avoid the topics of racial diversity, differences, and harmony, let’s teach them to embrace them. And let’s show them from Scripture why we all should.