I remember the first time I realized that Jesus, of Jewish descent, was actually born in Asia and had fled as a refugee to Africa. As a little girl I don’t remember even considering the color of Jesus’ skin. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that it mattered; it was that it wasn’t even a discussion that people were having around me.
However, while in graduate school I was reading a book called A Theology as Big as the City by Ray Bakke. He boldly states that Jesus was born in Asia, and while still so young had fled as a refugee to Africa. During this course we also engaged in very important dialogue about why the background, historical roots, and genealogy of Jesus were actually very important for the world.
There was a reason God would even send his Son, Jesus, to be born in a manger surrounded by animals and their dung, and then shortly thereafter have His life threatened resulting in fleeing to nearby Africa. There is a reason the Bible strategically depicts His lineage to include a prostitute, and other imperfect people.
“Why does it even matter what skin color Jesus was?”
Skin color is not defining but it matters because it includes a story. A story of where people are from, what their heritage is, where their geographical roots are, and so forth. Jesus’ skin color matters because a majority of the world has a skin color of various hues of moderate to dark brown (6 out of 7 people to be exact).
For years I worked with youth that came from challenging backgrounds. A majority of the youth that molded my life for those five years were of those various hues of brown. I came to know and value the importance of identifying mentors that looked like them, mentors that they could relate to. God created man and woman from dirt, and Jesus came to this world in a manger, became a carpenter and walked alongside everyday men and women to relate.
Both of my half-black sons will be able to look at Jesus and see themselves. The savior of the world looks like a majority of people. Yet, many of us grew up looking at a painting of a peachy skinned, blue eyed, brown haired Jesus.
Where does this come from?
“Up until the late 1800s, Blum says Americans were comfortable with Jesus' Semitic roots and depicted him with brown eyes. But as waves of Catholic and Jewish immigrants came to the United States, some Americans "became concerned that it was changing the face of America too much, changing it racially, changing it religiously." In the early 20th century, there was an attempt to distinguish Jesus from his Semitic background. Religious writers and artists who were advocating for immigration restrictions began to depict Jesus with blond hair and blue eyes.” (wbur.org)
I want to emphasize that it really doesn’t matter what Jesus’ skin color was as it pertains to His love for EVERYONE and that we are ALL humans created with different tones from very light peachy or yellowish brown to very dark chocolatey brown. To read more about the hues of humans visit brownicity.org, Brownicity is defined as: the combination of the words ‘brown‘ (we are all hues of brown) and ‘ethnicity‘ (that which we have in common). The word embodies unity, oneness, and wholeness.
However, history is significant. Jesus, in human flesh, is from an Afro-Asianic region. We can’t ignore that Jesus was intentional about all He did, therefore we can’t deny all He is.
To the children I shared a meal with in the slums of the Philippines to the youth I taught classes for in Haiti to the African American teens I shared my life with for so many years through after school programs, I want you to know this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, He looked like you.
The best Christmas gift of all is that Jesus sees you and loves you whether you have much or little. Jesus knows the struggle of being born dirt poor and living through instability. There is certain victory and it is ALL OF OURS—all seven continents, all hundreds of languages, all thousands of dialects. EVERY SHADE IS LOVED!