Trillia Newbell is a wife, mom, and writer. She writes about faith, family, fitness, theology, and the African-American experience.
Black, White, Chinese. That’s what my friends and I use to jokingly call each other every time we met together to eat and chat about our lives. I am black, Amy is white, and Lillian is Chinese. We met together for eight years pouring out our hearts, sharing the deepest parts of our souls, and praying earnestly for our various needs. We were (and remain) the best of friends. We didn’t set out to meet because we were ethnically diverse—it didn’t cross our minds at first. But as we continued to meet, we gloried in God’s creativity in making us as three people so very different yet so much the same because of the cross of Christ. Our friendship was a sweet display to the world of the gospel.
When the world talks about racial reconciliation, the emphasis is on racial harmony. There appears to be a desire for the races to relate and merely “get along.” I believe people genuinely desire for others to love one another and to accept each other. But God’s Word takes it a step further and is much more meaningful. As Christians, we aren’t merely to get along, we aren’t merely to love, but we are to love as if we are blood-related sisters and brothers!
When God created the world, He did not distinguish between who would be made in His image. Every person, all ethnicities, are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27). In Acts 17, Paul addresses the people of the Areopagus saying, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26, emphasis mine). The implications are astounding! Think about it. You and I are made in the very image of God. My friends Amy and Lil, when we met together, we met as image bearers of the Creator of the universe—equally! But it gets even sweeter.
Do you ever think about your testimony? I do often, and I thank God that my now dear friend Elizabeth didn’t hesitate to share the gospel with me because I am black. She loves people, so I could have been an alien (figuratively speaking) and she would have still shared the good news. Compelled by the love of Christ and the grace He has bestowed on her, she was simply walking out Matthew 28:19-20, which says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (emphasis mine). God doesn’t distinguish, and neither should we. He commands us to step out of our comfort zone and share the gospel with all nations. And then He gives us the name brother or sister in the household of God!
Amy and Lil aren’t merely my friends; they are my sisters! We are each children of God (1 John 3:1). As Christians, we are also a part of one body. In God’s creativity, He gives the body varying gifts, talents, colors, and personalities. We are all called to our different functions in this one body, but nevertheless, it is one body (Rom 12:4-5). In an article—”Foundations for Thinking About Race“—Dr. John Piper explains, “All believers in Jesus Christ, of every ethnic group, are united to each other, not only in a common humanity in the image of God, but even more, as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the same body” (Desiring God, Jan. 16, 1996).
Am I reading this right? So my Chinese and white girlfriends are my sisters? Yes, they are! We are united in Christ—the only thing that matters—and we can function as sisters, which we did.
Barriers Are Gone
The dark racial history in the United States could have distracted us from the barrier-breaking, history-smashing gospel of Jesus Christ. I could easily be a black-power, anti-white, card-carrying racist; Amy could be fearful of black people and have her mind filled with stereotypes of both Asians and blacks, and Lil (as I affectionately call her) could be the same. But instead, by the grace of God and because of His Spirit, we are friends who love each other dearly. How can this be?
Because there is no greater love than the love displayed on the cross on our behalf. Jesus broke all barriers. The gospel unites—should unite—all believers, especially in the area of race and ethnicity. The gospel breaks barriers such that I can fellowship, dine with, dance with, pray with, and enjoy Christians from all ethnicities without hesitation. Amy, Lil, and I enjoyed meeting together and benefited in our souls greatly from it. They are my sisters in Christ.
Over the past several months, I’ve had the privilege and honor to interact with many Christian women about the topic of race, writing, and faith. These new friends—just to name a few, Gloria Furman, The Redbud Writers, Mary Kassian, and Carolyn McCulley—have been a great encouragement to me. We are all quite different and come from various backgrounds. But we have one thing in common—a love for the gospel and our Savior Jesus Christ. We are sisters!
What do you think? Do you consider your friend in church to be a sister in Christ, or do you think of her as different? I’m redefining the word “sisters.” Would you join me?