INTRODUCTION: WHAT’S THE POINT?
Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me – Isaiah 46:9
I’ve started and stopped the writing of these lessons countless times. I’ve suffered from writer’s block in epic proportions. And the questions! There is so much information out there. But finding it, checking the credibility of the sources, weeding out what is questionable and making sense of it all is another story. Where do I begin? How do I know what’s
true? How do I consolidate and streamline the information so that it makes sense to you? And that doesn’t even cover my doubt. Who am I to speak on these topics? What if “they” hate it? And most importantly, what’s the point?
I so wanted to write something else, anything else. But have you ever had a “Jonah moment?” An experience where God just wouldn’t let you rest until you fulfilled what He was calling you to do (Jonah 1 and 2). Praise God a whale didn’t have to swallow me whole to get my attention (Although it did take a rocky boat experience. You can read
about that here Love God, Rock the Boat Don’t Rock the Boat Jesus).Thus, out of my obedience – which has grown to a pure delight – I’m sharing my journey as I’ve come to understand my African past through God’s Story, the Bible. But before I get to the meat of the matter, I must grapple with the question, “What’s the point?” And I’ll share those revelations here because I’m sure that if I had questions, you have questions too. So here it is, the point of it all.
What’s the point?
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32).” The idea captured in this verse is the point of it all. We, as a people, will never experience freedom until we understand the truth of our past. There has been a deliberate attempt to minimize or erase the presence of Africa and Africans and their contributions in Biblical history, sometimes referred to as Biblical “de-Africanization” (Spruill et al.). For so long, the Black story has been interpreted and told as a part of someone else’s narrative. When the meaning of something, and the culture of a people is stripped away, they are left grasping for straws, defining themselves by someone else’s interpretation of who they are. And it ultimately spins them into self-hate and confusion (From <http://www.herroyalroots.com/wordstudies>). This has been referred to as “de-Africanization” and has had a deep and lasting impact on the heart and soul of Blacks personally, economically, politically, socially, and more importantly, spiritually (Wilkerson, 2020). It’s left many Blacks, myself included, asking, “Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house However, God’s Word is true, and it contains all the answers we need.
And once we, as a people, reclaim the Biblical narrative of Africa and African descendants, we can begin to redefine and live what it means to be true worshippers, Jesus-followers, and gospel messengers in an authentic, Afrocentric way.
Why do we keep harping on the past?
Spanish philosopher and poet George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And this same sentiment is evidenced throughout the Bible as well. According to the Message translation of Isaiah 46:8-11, the Lord instructs, “Remember your history, your long and rich history. I am God, the only God you’ve had or ever will have – incomparable, irreplaceable – From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, all along letting you in on what is going to happen, assuring you, ‘I’m in this for the long haul, I’ll do exactly what I set out to do.’” Throughout God’s Word, His people are told to remember their history. They were commanded to remember the examples of His love and His power (Micah 6:5). These reminders also encouraged them when they became weary (Psalm 103:2, 107:43) and kept them from falling into sin (Deuteronomy 4:9).
We can get so caught up in our hurtful pasts and the “doom and gloom” of the present that we can then become susceptible to losing hope in our future (Psalm 137:1-4). Look at Stephen in Acts 7. Here Stephen provided a brief history of God’s experiences with Israel. His sermon demonstrated Israel’s continued stubborn rejection of God’s message and messengers and God’s unwavering grace with His people. It also serves as an indictment against the hearers, charging them with doing the very thing those before them had done.
Despite the hurt and the pain of the past, our only way forward will be to remember and learn from our past, remembering just how far we’ve come (Psalm 77:11). When we recall how God has kept, protected, guided, forgiven, and blessed us, we can have the assurance that He’s with us right now and cling to the promises of a bright future to come (Romans 15:4).
Does “color” really matter? Aren’t we all one in Christ?
No, “color” doesn’t matter. Yes, we are all one in Christ. And this study isn’t about “color” or the disunification of the body of Christ. It is, however, about seeking Biblical truths that have been lost for descendants of Africa. This study is about our mental and spiritual growth as a people as we fully understand our rich heritage, not just from our arrival on American soil, but as orchestrated from the beginning of time by our loving Father.
Is this study promoting “Afrocentrism” at the exclusion of other ethnicities/peoples?
Every translation of the Bible, Study Bible and Bible commentary was written through a particular lens, whether that be the lens of personal experiences, the lens of scholarly research and knowledge, or a historical or cultural lens. For example, The Woman’s Study Bible is designed to interpret the Bible through a lens of the experiences and needs of women. The Every Man’s Bible provides straight talk for men concerning Biblical understanding. The Amplified Study Bible seeks to make sense of the shades of meaning of the original Bible languages. The C.S. Lewis Bible provides insights into the Bible through the personal experiences of C.S. Lewis. And there are a host of commentaries, from every religion and denomination, written by theologians and scholars and provided in varying languages and formats.
So this series of Bible studies aims to do just that. It provides a Biblical understanding of God’s plan and purposes for African descendants viewed through a lens of Africa, its descendants, and Biblical truth.
The Bible tells us that when one member of our community suffers, we all suffer (I Corinthians 12:26) and that when one member is hurting, we are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
My husband is a retired firefighter. And he shared this analogy with me. It’s like living in a community with a home owner’s association. Everyone in the community agrees to a set of standards for which all are to live together within the community. Every community member is valued and has a say in the overall community and its functions. However, if one house within the community catches on fire, the fire department doesn’t show up to provide a service to every single home within that community. The fire department shows up to render aid and support to the one experiencing a crisis at that particular time. Subsequently, the other members in the community don’t run out to the firefighters, asking, “What about us? Don’t our homes matter too?” No, they rally around the one in crisis at that time.
That’s how I look at sharing these Bible Studies. They aren’t designed to exclude anyone or to value one group of people over another. Instead, they are designed to lend support and aid to a group of people who happen to be hurting right now.
We’ve made so many strides already. Why “rock the boat?”
Agreed. We have made many strides thus far. However, to suggest that our struggle, as descendants of Africa, is over is erroneous. And before we can become the people that God created and purposed us to be, we must first have an understanding of our history stemming back through ancient Biblical times as well as an understanding of God’s purposes and promises for us today. This is not an attempt to “rock the boat.” Rather, it is an attempt to “right the boat” and “set it afloat.”
When do we stop talking and start doing?
Philanthropist Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy has been quoted as saying, “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue, and the pain lessens. But it is never gone” (From <https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/healing>). Healing is the first step of doing. This is about healing the wound and not simply covering it up. For true healing to occur, the barriers that the pain of our past has erected must be removed. In order for us to live as God has purposed, we must allow the truth of God’s love, plans and purposes for us to mend all of our broken pieces. Reclaiming our history will allow us to move forward in strength and with confidence, living as God has purposed us to live.