by Mabel Ninan in Leading Hearts magazine
I could tell something was wrong.
When I picked up my six-year-old son from school one afternoon, he did not flash his charming, toothy smile at me. His eyes spoke loud and clear, “I need a hug right now.” I gave him an extra tight squeeze. As we walked toward our car, waving goodbye to other children and parents, questions swirled in my mind. Ryan was a cheerful boy who enjoyed school and rarely got into trouble. Did someone hurt him? Did he hurt another kid?
When we were finally by ourselves in the car, I took a few deep breaths. God, please give me wisdom to handle whatever is going to come my way.
“Ryan, what happened at school? Why are you sad?”
My son’s lips trembled and his cheeks twitched. He clutched the seat belt tightly with his hands. “Mom, my friend said my skin is the color of wood.”
Ryan burst into tears even before he finished the sentence. I got out of the car, rushed to the back seat and hugged my child. I thought the classmate’s comment was harmless. Maybe it was the tone of his voice and the context in which the comment was made that hurt Ryan’s feelings. His tears wet my new T-shirt as my eyes welled up. I thought I had more time before I spoke with my young, innocent boy about race and bullying. Caught off guard, I felt unprepared to deal with this situation. With my heart racing, I held his face in my hands and wiped his tears.
“Well, Jesus was a Jew born in Israel. His skin was probably the color of wood. Also, He was a carpenter who made useful things from wood. You can tell your friend tomorrow that you look like Jesus, OK?”
Ryan’s eyes suddenly lit up. A smile appeared, “You’re right, mommy.”
God Made Us All Beautiful
I got back behind the wheel and started driving home. Ryan talked about the song he learned at the school chapel that morning. But I wasn’t listening. Something was amiss. I felt an uneasiness in my soul that kept getting worse. What had I done?
Did I tell my son that he should feel special because he shared the same skin color with Jesus? Did I just claim Jesus for brown people, for Asians?
As soon as I reached home, I dropped our bags on the floor and sat down to chat with Ryan. “I understand that your friend’s comments made you sad and angry. Maybe he didn’t know his words were hurtful. But we can forgive him and pray for him.”
I apologized to my son for my emotional response in the car and explained, “It is true that Jesus was a Jew, but He came to earth to die for everyone’s sins. Anyone who believes in Jesus becomes a child of God and is dearly loved by Him. We don’t get any special attention from God because of our skin color or physical appearance.”
Gently stroking his check, I asked, “And, who do you think gave you a brown skin?
“God created me.” Ryan smiled.
“True. He handpicked the color of your skin, the length of your eyelashes, the thickness of your hair, and the half-dimples in your smile.”
I ruffled my son’s hair. “The Bible says that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made by God.”
Ryan nodded. Together, we thanked God for creating men and women in unique colors and shades and praised Him for His impartial, unconditional love.
What Jesus Looks Like
Jesus is portrayed in paintings and sculptures in a variety of colors. White. Brown. Black. We do not know whether the artist had in mind to be historically accurate or merely wanted to see himself in Jesus. But we know that Jesus’ physical characteristics are insignificant. Maybe that’s why the Bible doesn’t focus on His looks but speaks volumes about who Jesus is, what He taught, and what He did.
The parables He taught, such as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 NIV), show us what Christ requires from His followers—to imitate Him by loving others without bias or conditions. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV).
When we love Jesus and walk with Him, we manifest His character—compassion, kindness, humility, and love. Like children who resemble their biological parents, we resemble our spiritual Father when our love for one another transcends the barriers of race, caste, economic status, or nationality.
My conversation with Ryan continued after we both prayed about the incident that day. I told my son that he can look like Jesus by forgiving and loving those who hurt him.
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways, we, the body of Christ, can demonstrate Christlikeness is when we celebrate our God-designed diversity and practice sincere and unprejudiced love toward one another.
An immigrant from India, Mabel navigates between cultures, feeling at home everywhere and nowhere. She writes to inspire her readers to embrace their immigrant journey on earth and fix their eyes on Jesus. Her writings explore the intersection between faith, culture, and identity.
Mabel’s articles have been published in CBN.com, (in)courage.me, and InspireWriters.com. She is currently pursuing M.A. in Theological Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A lover of books and tea, Mabel lives in Northern California with her husband, her eight-year-old son, and a Maltese. You can connect with her through her blog, www.mabelninan.com, or social media @mabel_ninan.