When my late husband Ericlee and I were newlyweds, we invited my Grandpa Frank to come live with us. Several years earlier my Grandma Cora had soared to heaven, and our family knew it wasn’t good for Grandpa to be living alone anymore — far from most of our family.
My generous husband offered up our guest room. He knew this was important to me. Of course, neither of us realized that providing a home for Grandpa would enlarge our hearts in ways we’d never dreamed.
While most of our twenty-something friends were going out on Friday nights, we spent evenings around the table with Grandpa sharing bowls of pinakbet stew or taking him to theater productions and movies.
My ninety-year-old grandpa was a bit of a character. Grandpa walked with a signature slow shuffle and a toothy smile a mile wide. The wrinkles on his face danced when he talked. He told outrageous stories and got into things he wasn’t supposed to. He also had a beautiful way of disarming strangers and making them into fast friends.
In that season, my husband and I cultivated heaps of patience and experienced much surprising joy. My grandpa taught us to slow down our pace, to savor every bite, and to count each day as a gift.
When I first read the reports several weeks ago that Asian American senior citizens were being attacked in our country, I felt my chest tighten. Xenophobia and anti-Asian racism has been on the rise in the U.S. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. A restaurant in my own city hung a sign on its door warning people to stay at a distance until the “Kung Flu” was over.
Many of my Asian American friends started speaking out against this injustice, but I felt paralyzed. The tears were caught in the back of my throat as I thought about my precious Filipino-Chinese-Polynesian grandparents and someone singling them out because of the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, or their perceived country of origin.
I remember my own anxiety last spring about my Chinese-American husband going out for morning runs in the neighborhood or to the post office.
Would someone say something or do something to him?
My heart had to go there. More and more reports popped up on social media of friends who were enduring racial slurs and even physical harm because people were connecting COVID-19 with China and taking it out on Asian Americans of all different cultural backgrounds.
Genesis 1:27 reminds us that humans were created as image bearers of God: “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NLT).
This does not make us into gods. This means we are valued as God’s special creation. As image bearers, we can reflect God’s glory to the world in ways no other part of creation can. God deeply values us, and we have the opportunity to value other human beings of all sizes, shapes, heights, weights, personality types, and skin tones.
My flourishing depends on the flourishing of my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, family, and friends. If someone lashes out against a Black sister because of the color of her skin, we all suffer. If someone treats a Latina sister as “less than,” we all hurt. If someone overlooks an Indigenous sister, we all miss out. If someone attacks an Asian American elder, we all grieve because an image bearer of God has been struck down.
When racism is expressed in the world, we all need to be affected. Racism does not just affect individuals; it affects all communities. We are created as interdependent beings. We cannot flourish in isolation. We can only flourish together in community.
According to the Bible, we are called to pay particular attention to the oppressed, the marginalized, and those who are suffering. Jesus modeled this again and again in His ministry. He went out of His way to talk to, stand up for, heal, and champion the women and men who were most vulnerable in society. We are called to do the same.
In Romans, Paul writes about the marks of a true Christian: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:9-10, ESV).
Paul calls out the Romans and all of us reading God’s Word today to love each other as if we are family. Our love is to be genuine and honoring.
When my grandpa lived with us, we often went on evening walks together. He would grip my hand tightly to steady his body. For decades, the sweat of his brow and the work of his carpenter hands carried and provided for our family. Now my husband and I had the honor of caring and providing for him in his final season of life.
As we strolled the neighborhood, I had the opportunity to be his eyes — watching for cars, looking out for tree roots and cracks in the sidewalk that might trip him up or harm him. It was a privilege to walk with him in this way. On the route, he also gifted me wisdom, stories, and laughter.
Friends, let’s keep each other’s best interest in mind and value each other as part of our extended family.
Let’s stand up and speak up when we see others from God’s family being devalued or harmed.
Let’s walk together and treat each person like an image bearer of God to be treasured.
Some of my (in)courage sisters and storytellers joined me last summer for a two-part conversation about race and racism. These personal stories from women of color in our community help shed light and give deeper understanding of these issues.