Understanding the importance of Black History Month from a biblical perspective suggests an inquiry into the worth, value, and significance of an ethnic group in God’s broader and ultimate plan for humankind. What is the greatest value God assigns to people of different racial hue, creed and color to communicate His divine will? Many of the references made in the Bible about Black people involve us in the midst of cultural struggle or some disadvantaged, oppressed position. The Cushitic culture consisted of mostly dark skin people known for their historical presence in bondage or in servitude. On the other hand, there are some instances in biblical history where people of color held highly esteemed positions. However, when weighed in the balance, there are a disproportionate number of examples of blacks in servitude compared to those in regal positions.
As a Post-modern prophet, deeper theological questions come to mind when pondering the legacy of darker skinned people from biblical times to this present hour. How long must Black people be depicted as inferior? How Long? After all, God who is the Holy Spirit has a record of using people of varying skin hues and colors to work His divine plan since the beginning of time. What does scripture indicate about a people who are seemingly excluded from God’s plan of Grace based on their ethnicity, and skin color? What does it say about God if He permits people of color to be viewed throughout history as a suffering, oppressed and burdened people? Is Jesus not the savior of the entire human race? In the bible, can we find dignity of a people, who have been written out of history or historically marginalized? How can history be properly depicted when the majority of Bible commentators and European artists rarely sit down behind their canvass and paint, with lively and vibrant colors, a powerful and potent picture of Blacks in the Bible.
The exclusion of Blacks from being a positive presence in the Bible has led some in the disenfranchised black community to be skeptical of the Bible’s relevance as well as garner a healthy suspicion about the role of the Black church. Black History Month is not merely a time to remind people of the inestimable contributions of blacks in America. Biblically speaking, it is significant to note that the experiences of Black people demonstrate more solemn and sacred purposes. It is important to note the fact that Zipporah, Moses Midianite wife, was Black and so was her father Jethro. Lucius, Barnabas and Simeon of Antioch were men of Black lineage. Acts 13:1 says, “Now there were in the church at Antioch certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch, and Saul. Niger refers to “Black” African nations which resided around the region of Niger in biblical times. Nimrod, the son of Cush and the first on earth to become a mighty warrior, was a Black man. According to Gen. 10:8-12, Nimrod was also credited with constructing and establishing a city government in the Mesopotamia region. Phinehas the grandson of Aaron is said to have been a “Nubian” high priest. Also, the Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian, held high rank under Solomon’s reign. The biblical record is replete with the presence of Black people.
If perhaps for no other reason, black history is necessary for those who do and do not read the bible carefully to paint a different picture than mainstream society and give a varied perspective, providing positive characterizations of black people’s existence. During this year’s Black History Month we should feel great pride in knowing that our God is no respecter of one person. In Acts 10:34-35, Brother Peter had to come to the conclusion that God shows no partiality. Whoever seeks God with reverence and commits to his will is important to God and His eternal plan. Many Jews in Peter’s time supposed that God favored them over all other ethnic groups, some had the false impression that their ancestry was a sign of superiority. But when our God, who is the Holy Spirit, considers the people made by His hands, the walls and barriers come down so that all of God’s people, Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Red, etc. fully understand the one important aspect of God’s character which is He does not favor and has never favored one race over another. He loves all people in all times.
Reverend Dr. James Coleman,
Pastor, All Nations Baptist Church