Editor’s Note: Major media outlets continue to inquire regarding the impact of our racial assignment of Christ. Does our view of Jesus have any bearing on our daily lives, and life choices? Does representation matter in our depictions of the Holy Son of God? How did our modern depictions of Jesus turn out like this? Following is how Message addressed the conversation in 1971.
by W. W. Fordham
LET ME introduce the subject by asking a question: What are your ideas about the man called Christ? Think about it as we explore the question in depth. Of course, you know this is an age-old question. In fact, Christ posed the question to a group of cynics in His day, “What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42). “Whom do men say that I . . . am?” (Matthew 16:13, 14.)
In our predominantly black communities, with churches of every description on practically every corner, there is a growing cynicism about the man called Christ. Doubts increase about His divinity, His sovereignty, His miraculous powers, His concern and love for mankind, His death for man’s salvation, and His empathy and love for the black man.
Because of evils in the world and because of evil acts perpetrated against blacks from the days of slavery by many professed followers of Christ, many blacks, especially among the younger generation, are equating Christ with these so-called Christians. What you and I think of Christ must not be predicated on the actions of those whose lives deny, in fact, that they are His followers. In other words, we should not pass judgment upon a neighborhood because of the guilt or crime of one neighbor. We should not pass judgment upon a family because one child becomes what we might call a “black sheep.” I am appealing for fair play in our assessment of Jesus Christ.
There are those who refer to Jesus Christ sneeringly as lily white, meaning that He is a white man’s God. The tragedy, of course, is the fact that proclaimers of such heresy have never met Christ in a personal, meaningful way. The millions of followers around the globe who truly know Jesus Christ, love Him, and would gladly die in defense of Him.
It really pains me to hear people calling Christ lily white. It reveals the depth of their ignorance of historical Biblical facts.
Trace His Geneaology
If an honest seeker after truth would consider carefully the genealogy of Christ as recorded in the Book of Matthew, their minds would be quickly disabused of this diabolical lie. Take your Bible and read the entire account of the ancestry of Christ in Matthew 1. You will discover some interesting facts about Christ’s progenitors.
For example, Boaz, a Jew, married Ruth, a Moabitess; Salmon, a Jewish prince, married Rahab, a converted Canaanite harlot. The ancestry of Jesus Christ consisted of many colors and races. To me this is undeniable evidence that no one race has exclusive rights upon Jesus. He is a part of and belongs to the whole human race.
Frankly, no one really knows, positively, the color of Christ. We can only speculate. His earthly mother was a Jewess. One could assume that by her living in Palestine the color of Mary’s skin would have been of an olive hue.
Who Christ Really Is
This is true even today of the inhabitants of Bible lands. Only the immigrants would be considered white—I am referring strictly to the skin color. One thing we must keep in mind is that Christ did not have a human father. Make no mistake about this. The mother of Jesus was a virgin. This fact is supported by the Old and New Testament
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his
mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a
publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought
on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a
dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary
thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt
call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall
be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name
Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:18-23).
I, personally, know Christ as my God—the Creator of the heavens and the earth. I know Him as my Saviour
and Elder Brother. Later, I will give valid Scriptural evidence for my belief.
Now, when I refer to Christ as my soul brother, I am not referring to the pigmentation of His skin. There is really no need to paint a black-faced Christ in order to convince me that He loves me. He proved His love by dying for me. Christ is not divided along racial or color lines. When we truly accept Him as God the Creator, as Christ the Redeemer, we become colorblind.
Our problem—our dilemma—is that we are unable to cross the barriers of racism and, as brothers, prostrate ourselves at the foot of the cross, because we will not accept the Biblical and historical fact that Christ will not
be a party to racism; He will not allow Himself to be half-and-half—that is, neither half white nor half black. Now, we do have an all-white or all-black problem, so let us face it.
The white man, for years, portrayed Christ as being lily white. Pictures of every description always depicted a white Christ. Whenever we saw Him with children, they were white. When we saw Him with angels, they were white. Now the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. The black man’s Christ is black. The angels are black, and so are the children. Now what is the rationale for this phenomenon? The answer should be obvious. Identification. Soul. This need to identify Christ
with soul sister and soul brother pictorially becomes a must in order to destroy the myth that Christ is lily white, particularly in the minds of our youth.
This need to identify Christ with soul sister and soul brother pictorially becomes a must in order to destroy the myth that Christ is lily white, particularly in the minds of our youth.
The universal Christ, unlike other great men, transcended the bounds of nationality. Since His birth, death, and
resurrection, Christ has become the supreme figure of history. Every great event of history, all books, letters, newspapers, etc., have dates so many years before or after Christ. Christ went to the cross, that hated cross; yet He turned the cross into the glory of the world. Buddha belongs to the Orient. Mohammed belongs to Arabia. But Christ belongs to the world. (John 3:16.) Mothers out in the heart of Africa sing songs of love to Jesus. His name has penetrated the jungles of South America, the islands of the sea, and the far regions of the North. Neither time nor distance can lessen His power. The name of Jesus and His influence have circled the globe.
“Will Jesus ever be surpassed?” asked the editor of the Los Angeles Times. He then answers, “Nineteen hundred years have passed, and His equal has not risen. This is not true of the world’s other great ones. Every generation produces geniuses worthy to be compared with those who have gone before. It can be said of no one man, `He stands alone; he has no rival, no equal, no superior.’ But this is true of Jesus. Nineteen hundred years instead of diminishing His greatness have accentuated it. Today, more than ever before, the limelight is on the Nazarene.”
Napoleon, one of the greatest generals this world has ever known, while exiled on St. Helena with his empire broken, is quoted as having said to General Bertrand: “I tell you, Jesus Christ is not alone a man. His gospel, His empire, His march across the ages—all this is to me a wonder, an insoluble mystery. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires on force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire on love, and today millions would gladly die for Him.”
He went to the cross a despised and unheard-of criminal; yet He lifted empires off their hinges and tinged all the history of time with His blood. He was Jesus Christ, the mighty God. Without a return to Christ, our world civilization is doomed. No king, president, or dictator has dared make the claims He makes.
From His Own Mouth
In John 10:27-30 He claims to be God. In John 8:58 He claims preexistence, declaring, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He claims omnipotence, saying that all power is given to Him in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:
18.) In Matthew 24:35 He claims infallibility, declaring that before His words could fail, heaven and earth
would cease to exist. In John 14:6 He claims to be the Way and the Truth. In John 11:25 He claims to be the Resurrection
and the Life; in John 10:7, the Door; in John 15:1, the True Vine; in John 6:51, the Living Bread; and in John 8:12, the Light of the world.
These are but a few of the claims Jesus makes for Himself. No man would dare to make these claims. To Him indeed give all the prophets witness. He is the Desire of all nations (Haggai 2:7); the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6); the Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6); the Mighty One of Jacob (Isaiah 60:16); our Redeemer (Job 19:25; Isaiah 59:20); the Chief
Shepherd (Zechariah 11:16; 1 Peter 5:4); and the Bright and Morning Star
(Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16). The focal point of prophecy, He stands forth above all others as the Man of Destiny, the Man for the Hour, the Christ for the Crisis. He is the answer to all our needs—regardless of
the need, He is the answer.
To the baker, He is the Bread of Life.
To the sculptor, He is the Rock Eternal, the Rock of Ages.
To the astronomer, He is the Bright and Morning Star.
To the florist, He is the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley.
To the artist, He is the One Altogether Lovely.
To the architect, He is the plan of salvation.
To the horticulturist, He is the True Vine.
To the engineer, He is the Living Way.
To the Captain, He is the Pilot.
Adam called Him the Promised Seed. Jacob called Him Shiloh: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” Genesis
The Question Only You Can Answer
What is your testimony concerning Him? Is He your All in all? Has He ever failed you? Has He proved to be
a real friend to you?
“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!”
Take that hymn and try to substitute some other name for the name of Jesus. Take the name of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Plato, or Socrates; Roosevelt, Johnson, Kennedy, Rockefeller, King. Take the name of Moses, Elijah, David, Peter, Paul, or the virgin Mary. No other name fits. Why? Because there is no substitute for
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When you consider all the facts about Jesus Christ, weighing them carefully, you will have to admit that He is worthy of your allegiance, your worship, and your love.
A British plane, crippled by enemy fire, dropped to the ocean and sank. Five of the crew managed to get into a
rubber raft made for only four men. The raft began to sink. With calm heroism, one young man stepped out of the raft and soon vanished beneath the waves. He gave his life that the four might live.
Nearly two thousand years ago, on a Friday afternoon, the Son of God went to Calvary. He gave His life on a
cruel cross that you and I might live. What love! All for poor sinners—”black, white, yellow, red, brown”—sinners
like you and me.
I have accepted Him as my Saviour. My brother, my sister, will you accept Him, too?