By Alex Macias
Last year I read Brian Bantum’s Redeeming Mulatto. In it, Bantum compares persons of mixed race to the dual (human and divine) natures of Christ and recognizes the church, comprised of those born of flesh and baptized into the Spirit, as a family superseding our biological families. It’s a helpful image – the church as a mixed family – supported by Scripture both implicitly and explicitly. I was particularly drawn to it being a person of mixed ethnicity. My mom’s parents immigrated from Ecuador and Colombia and my dad’s grandparents from the UK and Western Europe. Many of my parent’s siblings have married across color lines as well, and our family gatherings are now quite the ethnic rainbow.
While my family tends to get together frequently, I now live halfway across the country, and Christmas is one of the few times a year that I get to see all of them in one house. Not only are we a large and diverse family, we’re also very good at adopting friends into it. There are the lifelong family friends, the current significant others, the foreign exchange students and the people my aunt met on the street that day (a fact my dad has often used to argue against hosting.) It’s a big, beautiful, chaotic mess of people eating, laughing, and randomly bursting into song. I LOVE IT.
When my daughter was born almost four years ago, she was first presented to the family at the Christmas party. Everyone was ecstatic to welcome her and demonstrated it with completely overwhelming chatter, shouting and grabbing at her to which she responded by jutting out her tiny, quivering lower lip and bawling. (This is similar to how my husband responded when he was introduced at the family Christmas party.) Despite her sheer terror, she was in good hands. This was her debut into the family where she belonged and was cherished, much like our baptism is our debut into the family of God.
This sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But let’s be real for a minute here. Our family is not perfect. It’s spotted with its grudges, betrayals, and addictions. These things are, for the most part, forgotten at Christmas, but just like other families we are fully capable of having a great time together one day out of the year and then not talking for months. As a church family, we may be good at doing the same thing. We get together on Sundays and smile, sing, and act (maybe even pretend?) like we like each other, and then go about our business the rest of the week without much interaction.
But if baptism demonstrates that we have joined the family of God, what does it mean to really act as brothers and sisters?
I know segregated Sundays are still the reality, and even in the areas where multi-ethnic churches are flourishing, there are still ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, etc. barriers that prevent us from really walking with our brothers and sisters. But we must remember that the Church is at its best, that it is living into its identity, when we agree to share our lives and our hearts with our fellow believers across these barriers. This is real fellowship: sharing in each other’s joys and their sorrows.
In a healthy family, each member strives to protect, advocate for, and nurture the others. As a family of believers, let’s take Romans 12:15 seriously and spend more time listening, laughing, and lamenting with each other even if it feels unnatural or uncomfortable. And not just on the holidays.