I am the good shepherd. Jn 10:11
A friend asked me a few weeks ago “Would your life be different if you had grown up with a black Jesus?” My instinctive answer was, “Yes, of course!” But, at that moment, as a white woman, I hadn’t really given much thought to the ins and outs of that reality, hadn’t yet imagined my way into what a life lived with a black Jesus might have been like. Yet, in the weeks since, his question keeps coming back to me–in times of prayer, in conversations with my black sons, now 22 and 26, and as I listen to the reports on the Chauvin trial and read about Ma’khia Bryant, the 16 year old black girl fatally shot by police in Columbus, Ohio, my home state.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jn 10:11
When I was in my twenties, I had an experience of Jesus that can never quite be fit into words. In a moment, I felt in every cell of my body the vast, incomprehensible love for me that is Jesus’. And understood, simultaneously, that Jesus loves everyone in that exact same incomprehensible, overflowing way.
I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me. Jn 10:14
In the weeks since my friend posed that question, I’ve imagined what it is like to connect that feeling of overwhelming love with the face of a black Jesus. In fact, around the same time, another friend coincidentally sent me a prayer card with an icon of a black Jesus and I’ve spent time simply gazing at the icon and taking in the divine love that is now always with me. It’s made me wonder how a practice like this might open the hearts of so many of us who have been educated into certain ways of seeing the world.
There will be one flock, one shepherd. Jn 10:16
Now we all know that Jesus was neither white nor black. He was Middle Eastern. He likely looked much like the four Sikh victims in the recent FedEx shooting by a young white man who had visited white supremacist websites. Our society gives us so many opportunities to hold ourselves apart from each other, by appealing to our basest fears. Jesus invites us to go beyond our fears. He is the good shepherd in whose name we too, like the cripple in Acts 4, are made whole, in his one body.
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 Jn 3:2
Lissa Romell is the Administrator at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.