What I’ve Learned from Talking About Ethnicity — Part 2

The following post was written by an Anglo staff member ministering with Destino.

In our ministry, there are some older staff who I look up to–Latinos and Latinas who have a deep relationship with Jesus.  Over these last few years I’ve heard them share what it means for them to follow Christ specifically from the perspective of being Latino.  They have expressed a wide range of feelings:  One was on staff because he wanted to see Christ use Latinos to change the world.  Another shared that in her life there had been a time when she wanted nothing to do with her culture and thought that “Spirit-filled” and “Hispanic” were opposites.  Another had considered his ethnicity irrelevant but then came to realize that he had been intentionally created as Latino by the Lord.

In my last post, I started explaining what I’ve been learning through various conversations, interactions, and discussions about race, culture, and ethnicity.  The first thing I learned was that I myself had an ethnicity and a culture, and that I should explore exactly what that means.

One of our values in ministry is that people experience wholeness through Christ in their ethnic identity.  God has made each of us, and if we are in Christ, the Bible says we’re a new creation–He’s re-making us as well!  One aspect of the Christian life is that we are discovering more and more of who God is, as well as who we are.  There are so many dimensions of who God is, that if we spent all of eternity learning and experiencing who exactly He is, we would never finish.  We would never read the last page; we would never see the last facet of the gemstone of His character.

I believe that although we are finite creatures, there is enough to our identity as human beings to fill a lifetime with discovery of who we are.  There are the relational roles you play–father, mother, child, etc.  There are also vocational roles–the things you do for a living or do for fun.  Everyone also has a gender identity, a citizenship, and a cultural identity.  For each of these roles, a Christian at some point ought to consider, “What does Christ’s death and resurrection mean for me as a ______ ?”  Here are some identity questions we Christians tend to ask today in America:

What does it mean for me to be a man or a woman in Christ?

How does the gospel change how I act as a spouse?

How does God want me to raise my kids?

How does God want me to act toward my coworkers?

Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of listening in as my coworkers ask, “What does it mean to be a Latino/a in Christ?”  Naturally I started asking, “What does it mean to be a white person in Christ?”

If I believe that God knit me together in the womb and ordained my going out and lying down (Psalm 139), then it follows that my place of birth, ethnicity, nationality, and culture are not happenstance.

And if God ordained it, shouldn’t I consider what the gospel entails for this area of my life?

Maybe God’s plan for me in my ethnicity has to do with redemption or healing of past hurt.  Perhaps it means recognizing where I have privilege and power that could either be used to oppress or to lift up.

If I fail to ask the question, “What does God want for me in my ethnicity,” I can still experience Christ.  Just like I can still experience Christ if I never think about what the Gospel means for me as a man, as a husband, or a father.

But I can experience deeper life in Christ the more of my identity I probe.

For example, as I learned more of what Christ wants for me as a man, I treasured that aspect of who He made me to be, and desired to be more like Him in that arena.  The same goes for every other facet of who I am.

I am convinced that considering the totality of who we are, and what God wants for each facet of our identity brings glory to God and makes us whole.  We are being transformed as we are renewed by Christ, and we transformed people are used by God to transform the world around us and announce the sure coming of the Kingdom of God.

How about you?  What does God want for you in your ethnicity or your culture?

Devin is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.  Originally posted on his blog.

Photo Credit:  John Hritz.