Bob Tamasy: The Curious Concern About The Color Of Jesus

Thursday, October 21, 2021 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

Everyone seems fixated on color these days. If you’re a college football fan, it’s orange if you follow the Tennessee Vols, crimson if you root for mighty Alabama, or in my case, scarlet and gray for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

 

If you ever watch home improvement shows, you discover one of the key design factors is color. And I must admit, the fixer-upper folks are expert on how to use color to make old and dilapidated turn into new and exciting. Attention to color can be valuable in many other ways as well, but there’s one way that it’s not – when we focus on the color of a person’s skin.

 

Is it wrong to be aware of someone’s skin color? No, unless it’s also wrong to notice whether people are tall or short, skinny or heavy, dark-haired or blonde, blue-eyed or brown, or if their hair is curly or straight.

Those are just some of the distinctive outward qualities we all have, and if we have eye to see, it’s normal to notice them. The problem comes when we start to judge – or prejudge – folks according to only their external characteristics.

 

I love the oft-quoted declaration by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." For some people, however, because character comes from within and can be difficult to discern, they make prejudicial assessments according to how people look outwardly.

 

Obviously, this is wrong. We wouldn’t evaluate a house solely based on the outside paint and trim, without looking inside to discover whether it has the same aesthetic qualities there, or whether its rooms have fallen into disrepair. Dr. King said it right: It’s not skin color that matters, but character.

 

The Bible gives us a classic example of how God values the person within when He assigned the prophet Samuel to anoint the person to succeed Saul as king of Israel. Inspecting the sons of Jesse, Samuel saw several whom he thought passed the “look test.” But the Lord rejected each as a candidate for the throne. Why? Because as 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." David, described as “a man after God’s own heart,” was His choice.

 

It's interesting then that this emphasis on external traits is extended by some to worrying about what color Jesus was when He carried out His earthly ministry. We have no photographs of Him, and I believe that’s God’s intent. In fact, Isaiah 53:2 prophesied of the coming Messiah, “…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” In other words, Hollywood types would never cast Jesus to play Himself in a movie.

 

Artwork of Christ through the centuries often seems to give Him a western European appearance, but that’s unlikely since He did not live in that part of the world. We have no actual evidence of what Jesus did look like. Does it matter?

 

Dr. E.V. Hill, the late great preacher, once was asked if he thought Jesus was Caucasian, since He’s so often depicted that way in paintings. This was his reply:
“I don't know anything about a white Jesus.... I know about Christ, a Savior named Jesus. I don't know what color He is. He was born in the brown Middle East; He fled to black Africa; and He was in heaven before the gospel got to white Europe. So, I don't know what color He is. I do know one thing: if you bow at the altar with color on your mind, you'll get up with color on your mind. Go back again – and keep going back until you no longer look at His color, but at His greatness and His power – His power to save!"

 

Pastor Hill nailed the crux of the matter. Jesus didn’t come to earth in human form to strut about like the hunky guy in TV commercials. His purpose was about inward transformation, not outward appearance. The salvation He offers, through His greatness, power and the selfless sacrifice He made 2,000 years ago, is available to all, with no consideration of externals.

 

In Christ, outward distinctions such as skin tones, status or gender don’t matter. As Galatians 3:28 declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Our color makes no difference to Him, and His color should make no difference to us.


* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.

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