16 Jun

The image is forever seared in my brain. A little white sheep, pure wool, pure white, on the altar before God. Old Testament sunday school 101. God didn't want any animals with blemishes. 

Flannel Graph lamb


But no where in the BIble do I find instructions to bring a pure white unblemished sheep. The Jews were supposed to bring an animal without defect. Not without color.

11 years ago, when I moved to the Sudan, I had only seen white sheep. As an 8 year old boy, one of my fondest memories was a little vacation house we lived for 3 months in Remich, Luxembourg. The town has a mini-golf course. The neighbors had a hazelnut tree. Across the highway, there was a little country road, lined with trees that opened up into green fields. And there was a really big hill we could ride our dirt bikes down. The Hill was what drew us almost daily, but once you went down, you also had to go back up! Since this wasn't as much fun, we'd spend a few moments staring at the sheep crazing contently in the fields. Perfect white woolly specimens, the result of generations of breeding programs where every sheep came out perfect.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered in Sudan that sometimes the only way to tell a sheep and a goat apart is the direction the tail points. Mangy looking creatures of all colors and sizes roamed the back roads of Khartoum, foraging for what little might be found. Particularly during the festivals, shepherds would fill the city with their herds, capitalists always existing beside religion.  These were not the pretty little lambs of sunday school. Brown, black, spotted. And acceptable to God in the Old Testament sacrifices.

As I reflect on this, I discover that unconsciously, we embrace these ideas. But the point is not to be without spots, its was to be without blemishes. Sin is the blemish on the human soul, but variety and diversity in Jesus is a beautiful, acceptable and even part of his created order and plan. My family is made up of a white swede/scot born in the Congo, a Kenyan become American, an American Princess born in France, and as bookends, the oldest and the youngest, boys born in rural American. We all bring something to the beauty of our family.

Everyone brings a gift, a talent, a unique take on the world. It's up to us to allow a place where that tapestry of creativity and color that is the Body of Christ comes together to make more than a painting, but a family.