Euro-centric interpretations of the Bible have generally failed to acknowledge the presence and role of Black people in the Bible. Christians need to gain an understanding of Black personalities in the Bible and to fully acknowledge their contribution to the spreading of the good news. The account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, an unnamed Black man in Acts of the Apostles is a good case in point. See Acts 8: 26 – 40
We are told that the angel of the Lord speaks to the apostle Philip, telling him to go to Gaza. In obedience, Philip goes to Gaza and there he meets the Black Ethiopian man, who has great authority under Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. He is in charge of all of the Queen’s treasure, and he came to Jerusalem to worship and on his return journey, he is sitting in his chariot reading the Bible. Philip is directed by the Holy Spirit to speak to the Ethiopian.
- Social, cultural and ethnic differences are not barriers when people are determined to know God and understand His truth.
We learn that this Black Ethiopian is an important government official – a man of high rank and respect. We also see that he loves reading God’s Word. We see how God brings these two men together. From a social class viewpoint, Philip was from a position of lower rank and the Ethiopian was an important government official. Racially, Philip was Greek and the eunuch was African.
Now get this – neither man saw these distinctions in each other. They focused on their common quest to know God.
Together, both men, rich and poor, White and Black, share the good news of God’s message. God then uses Philip to lead the eunuch into an encounter with Christ, he is converted and baptized promptly. We can only imagine the large number of Ethiopians who heard the gospel message and were converted, because of this one man’s testimony.
- See the BIG picture – the common good of all, regardless of their ethnicity, ideology or religious belief. Focus on what’s important – use your God-given abilities and opportunities to help resolve problems that undermine the common good.
In the story of Naaman’s healing, it was Naaman’s slave girl, Naaman’s servants, Elisha the prophets and Elisha’s servants who overlooked the conditions of their social status and brought the message of healing to Naaman, a man of high rank and influence, who was from Syria – a nation that had gone to war against Israel. Even though the slave, Elisha and his servants knew that Naaman was a pagan and was part of an oppressive regime, this did not impede their mission to bring physical healing and spiritual revelation to him. As a result, Naaman declared that he would serve the God of Israel and we can imagine that he used his position of influence and testimony of healing to bring others to God. See 2 Kings 5: 1-16.
Like Naaman’s slave girl, his servants, Elisha and his servants, Black Canadian soldiers in World Wars 1 and 2 looked beyond their own oppressive conditions of racial segregation, injustice and marginalization, to fight for this country and the world in the quest for justice and the greater good of all, including their oppressors in Canada at the time.
- Black History Month offers us the opportunity to step out of the ignorance of the history of Black people and accept the truths about their contribution to our world and the spreading of the Good News.
During Black History Month, let us express heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to God, whose promise to Abraham “to be the father of many nations” is now a reality. This promise is also a promise of inclusion, that all people of all nations, races and social rank can be united as one universal family under a gracious, loving Father God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christ in us, the hope of glory!