Is Jesus black or white?

By Samuel Kwizera

“‘I asked my momma, I said, ‘Momma, how come everything is white?’ I said, ‘Why is Jesus white with blonde hair and blue eyes?’……. I said, ‘What happened to all the black angels when they took the pictures?’”  – Muhammad Ali

This quote from an interview with the renowned boxer Muhammed Ali may look funny in many people’s eye but there is a much deeper side beyond its being comic.

In some African homes and churches are images of a white, blond, blue-eyed man called “Jesus.” This seemed to cause no problem until more Africans were exposed to the nature of how a first-century Jewish man looked like.

There is no shadow of doubt of how images and representations affect our knowledge of God. This is why I am writing this article. I hope that reading this will equip you with better ways to approach this problem.

Recently on a walk with a friend, I was asked what I thought to be a simple question but it turned out to be harder.

The question goes like this “When you think of Jesus what picture comes to your mind?”

A picture of some white, blond, blue-eyed man flashed in my mind. At that moment I started to laugh at myself for quickly understanding that the image was wrong. But beyond that, I remember a village in the southern part of Africa that hosted a white man thinking it was Jesus. Another incident like that happened in 2017 on the border of Rwanda and Congo and so many.

The appearance of Jesus as human was necessary for us to relate with God. For him to be called Emmanuel and for him to be the propitiation of our sins. He was born of Jewish heritage from the tribe of Judah but is this all?

The identity of Christ that our minds conceive is important since it affects the way we relate to him. Some people in church have gone as far as recreating the same pictures considered to be of “Jesus” with a black “Jesus.” Some go into denying the faith, claiming that this is another form of colonization.

Who are we to blame? Missionaries, Movie industries or Painters. The blame game won’t help to make right the wrong here.

In spite of blaming each, I see this as an opportunity for the church in Africa to stop its members from fighting to have Jesus black or white, and teach their members on his true identity as the saviour of the whole world, as the son of God and the second person in the trinity.

We ought not fight the battle of what colour was the skin of our lord and risk ending up losing the war of calling many to his kingdom.

I am not saying we completely think of his human nature as something of no use. But I am saying his nature as a first-century Jewish man was necessary for him to accomplish his mission, so our focus should be on the mission.

Yes, the mission. Why come to the earth? why die on the cross? what was his message?

Our eyes should be more focused on why he, God in all ways was supposed to have an earthen body?

Lest we become that child whose father pointed the finger to the stars but the child’s eyes stuck on the father’s finger.

2 Timothy 2:23-25, the Bible says:

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, skilful in teaching, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.