At the Table of Racial Reconciliation
A guest post by Sherrinda Ketchersid
It’s three days after Thanksgiving, and you may still be wearing your elastic waistband pants after indulging in the traditional feast of turkey and dressing—not to mention all the pies.
With COVID-19 still running rampant, your Thanksgiving may have looked a little different. Some may have been able to sit together around a table to feast, while others may have had to eat together through a Zoom call or eat outside, weather permitting. We have had to rearrange our traditions in order to accommodate safety for one other.
This got me thinking about a study I just finished by Kristi McLelland called Jesus and Women - Bible Study Book: In the First Century and Now, and how it relates to racial reconciliation and social justice. During one lesson, we focused on the story of Jesus being anointed by a sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to his house for a meal, and Jesus ended up rearranging the room.
To give a little background from biblical times, hospitality was important. People honored others by having them in their home for a meal. Being a generous person was important as well. Therefore, people would allow the poor, the outcasts, and marginalized to sit along the wall and partake of the food. The guests of honor would recline at the table, leaning on their left side so that their right hand (the hand of blessing) would be free to eat with. Their feet would point to the wall. This gave easy access to the woman who had heard Jesus was going to be at the Pharisee’s house, and she came to bless him with her jar of perfume.
This woman came with her hair unbound, which indicated she was an immoral woman. But she came to honor Jesus, and washed his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and anointed his feet with her jar of perfume. Her actions must have caused quite a stir, and Simon was indignant. Though he did not outwardly speak against her actions, he thought them … and Jesus addressed his inward thoughts. Let’s read about it in Luke 7:44-47 (NIV):
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Jesus turned toward the woman. He saw her. He saw her plight. He saw her tears. He saw her heart of love for him. He saw Simon and his own condescending thoughts and feelings. By comparing the woman and Simon, Jesus rearranged the room. No longer was the woman assigned to the wall. Jesus lifted her up and brought her honor. She had a seat of honor at his table, figuratively speaking. And Simon…well, Simon was removed from his seat of honor and relegated to the wall, so to speak.
I think the beauty of Jesus Christ’s mission on earth is that He is room designer. He lifts up those who are neglected and hidden from view to a place of prominence in his kingdom. He finds a place of importance in the room for the marginalized. He believes all of his creation—all of humankind—should be given honor and respect, not relegated to the back wall.
We should all be looking for ways to bring Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC) to the forefront and promote them to a place of honor and prominence in a white-centered world.
So often, BIPOC are overlooked because we Americans as a nation are so white-focused. There are more movies, TV shows, and books with more White leads than with BIPOC. Most politicians are White. Most CEOs are White. BIPOC shop in stores catered to White people and often cannot find products like makeup or hair care that will work for them. It is harder for BIPOC to get business loans because of racism and discrimination. I could go on and on with these types of issues.
Not only are we White-centered in our consumerism and leadership roles, we are also White-centered in the way we deal with the hurt of BIPOC in their ongoing oppression—and yes, they are still oppressed because racism is systemic and ingrained in everyday life. We’ve seen this when discussions get heated and Whites try to “tone police” a BIPOC’s emotional response. We see it when Whites get defensive when called about their White-centered words or actions. Anything that puts a White person’s feelings over that of BIPOC is White-centering, and this practice should be dismantled.
As Jesus Christ came to turn an upside-down world to an upright position, we, too, should look for ways to make things right for BIPOC and others who are marginalized by the world. Whether we shop BIPOC stores, read BIPOC authors, give money to BIPOC causes, and truly listen to BIPOC voices, we need to be seeking opportunities to make a difference in the journey of racial reconciliation. We need to follow the footsteps of Jesus and rearrange the room for all those who need justice.
Sherrinda Ketchersid is an author of historical romance and a minister’s wife who loves to paint in her Bible.
She loves to read, spend time in her flower garden, and try her hand at new crafts. She likes to blog and is part of a group called The Writers Alley.
Sherrinda lives in north-central Texas with her husband of 35 years. With four grown children, three guys and a gal, she has more time and energy to spin tales of faith, fun, and forever love.
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