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5 Words

If you had to pick 5 words that expressed who you are- your identity- what would they be? You may choose words like “woman”, “teacher” or “introvert” but what else?  What about the honest, raw words; words you may not want to admit to yourself?

What about “depressed”, if you struggle with depression. Or “unlovable,” if you’ve been abandoned by your partner. Or “Immigrant” or “refugee,” if you were from another country. These identities carry stigma, especially these days as we try to fit in. 

During the last few years, especially during COVID, it was not so great to be Asian American, let alone Chinese American. Being Chinese carried a lot of stigma, especially when a segment of the population blamed the spread of COVID on Chinese people. We saw videos and articles of Chinese people being harassed and beaten up on the street by strangers. The sharp increase in violence brought to light some of the discrimination and abuse Asian Americans faced, however, it didn’t curb the increase of violence. 

However, the larger question is why did this need to happen for me to be embraced by the dominate culture? 

So what is a Chinese American girl to do to protect herself? 

When you see me and talk to me, it is not apparent that I am Chinese. I don’t have an accent. I wear somewhat acceptable “western” style clothes that ensure that I blend in with the masses. (This was not the case when my mother dressed me in second grade.) I listen to NPR and know popular tv shows, movies and music, so I can carry on a conversation with other “Americans”. It is not that I have shed my “Chinese- ness” but that I have added “American-ness”. This occurred seamlessly and naturally, probably because I’ve been in the US since I was 7 years old and I actually enjoy those things. However, the larger question is why did this need to happen for me to be embraced by the dominate culture? 

There is a Babylonian Talmud’s morning prayer that the Jewish people prayed. In the prayer, there was a line thanking God for not making them a Gentile, a slave or a woman. Gentiles at Paul’s time were regarded as unclean. Very few Jews associated with Gentiles. 

Can you imagine if someone prayed every morning thanking God that they were not YOU? 

The Gentiles wanted to be accepted by the disciples, those that followed Jesus and this new Jewish faith. As a result, the Galatians started to follow Jewish law and the men circumcised themselves. (I can’t imagine undergoing painful surgery just to be accepted.) 

God sees those distinctions, and celebrates it.

In Galatians 1:6, Paul says “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel.”  Paul continues to explain that if the people continue to live by the law to establish their “righteousness” it was like Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:19-21).

This is then followed by the well-known verse: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

I am not saying that we should be color blind and not acknowledge the fact that I am Chinese American. In fact, we know from Revelations 7:9 that God LOVES diversity. He created diversity- different tribes, people groups, languages, traditions, culture and identities. Just like a field with thousands of different flowers or the different types and colors of birds in the air, God celebrates our diverse identities. Paul is saying the hierarchy we place on our race (Gentile or Jew), our gender (male or female) or social economic class (slave or free) is wrong. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

What God hates is when we say one identity is better than another and we make others feel worse because of who or what they are. When we say women are less than men; refugees and immigrants can be treated harshly; Chinese people don’t deserve the same level of respect as those of European descent, we are creating a false hierarchy. God sees those distinctions, and celebrates it. In fact, he wants to protect those who are more vulnerable so he provides extra care.

Even when we look at people who may have physical or mental disabilities, do we make them feel less? If someone is unemployed or never graduated from high school, do we treat them differently?

We are experts on creating hierarchies in our head. Questions we ask people when we meet them for the first time are “what do you do?” or “where are you from?”. We notice their skin color; the way they dress and how they carry themselves. 

God is challenging us to notice and celebrate the diversity and treat them as Children of God. No matter what someone’s identity or whether we respect that identity, God is challenging us to see that person as a Child of God and therefore deserving of our care and respect. 

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash


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