A Festival Del Cristo Negro

In Panama there is a Catholic celebration called Festival del Cristo Negro. Thousands of people make a pilgrimage to see a black Jesus statue. According to Wikipedia, “The statue is a wooden statue of Jesus Christ in Iglesia de San Felipe, a Roman Catholic parish church located in Portobelo, Panama. The statue was found on the shores of the town's harbor. Life size, it is adorned with a robe that is changed twice a year, once during the Festival of the Black Christ and during Holy Week.” According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “This year, on October 21, some 60,000 pilgrims will descend on the town to celebrate…” And why do they do this? “...celebrate not only their Catholic religion, but also their Afro-Panamanian identity.”
That is right, the religious festival is a form of protest to something that happened many centuries ago. According to theologian S Kyle Johnson, “The festival is more than a religious celebration, it is a form of protest against Spanish colonialism, which brought with it slavery and racism…such festivals play a crucial role for historically oppressed peoples.” Historian Kaysha Corinealdi claims, “the Festival del Cristo Negro is a humble way for everyday Panamanians to connect with their past.”
This may be a religious festival, but it is far from a form of worship. Worshiping God should focus on…God. It is very interesting for these people to say they are doing this to worship Jesus, while at the same time making it all about themselves. Can they really say they are there to worship Christ, while at the same time making a protest? Our actions should glorify God, not history. Our celebrations of Jesus should lift Him up on high, not our heritage. Worship is praise, not protest. It is all about Him and not at all about me.
Also , let us not overlook the fact that they are worshiping an idol of Jesus, not Jesus Himself. Isn’t this such a sad state of affairs? Jesus is risen and He is currently alive. Yet they want to pay homage to a caricature of Him. He is really there, fully alive to praise and pay homage to. But they want to settle for a wooden doll. What would you rather have; a statue of a loved one or the actual person in the flesh? These Panamanians are so lost in their pilgrimage. They are settling, when they could have so much more.
But this is not even the saddest part of this festival. Look at how they are identifying themselves. See how they are focusing on their ethnicity? Their protest has everything to do with the color of their skin. They are focused on being identified with their past and the fact that they are black . Yet our identity should be in Christ. It is He who we should identify with, not our ethnicity.
Colossians 3:3
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

1 Corinthians 3:23
and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

1 Corinthians 8:3
but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

1 Peter 2:10
for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
This line of thought that we see in Panama is what will lead to division. The article portrayed this as a wonderful thing to unite them. But that is nowhere near the truth. What they are doing is  dividing the church by ethnicity. But Christ broke down all these barriers! “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) So why focus on the fact that they are Afro-Panamanian? What unites us is not what country your family came from or what color your skin is. What unites us is Christ. Who we should identify with is Christ. One of the benefits of salvation is a completely new identity! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
While the world is trying to identify and divide people by their ethnicity, Christ is uniting. He is uniting everyone to Himself. His kingdom continues to grow as He breaks down the walls the world tries to build up. May we remind ourselves of where our true identity lies.

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