This recent exchange between Jalen Rose and Grant Hill caught my attention:
A college-aged Jalen Rose called out Grant Hill for being an “Uncle Tom” because he, unlike the stereotypical African-American, came from an educated middle-class family with two parents. Hill attended Duke, whose basketball team is known for having more success recruiting white players than African-American players.
When is someone a “sellout”?
This reminded me of a blog post in 2009 on Next Gener.Asian Church, entitled “Is Francis Chan a Sell-out?
Francis Chan has gained a great deal of notoriety as a preacher and teacher of God’s word, but he does not necessarily associate much with the Asian-American community. Does that make him a sell-out?
If someone is acting differently than his stereotype–talking differently, dressing differently, and spending time with different circles, is he or she a sell-out? If someone from a minority race in America decides to hang out with mostly white people, has he betrayed his race? Should they be derided?
Grant Hill comes from a successful and educated family, uses proper grammar, is not violent or a criminal, and does a great deal of community work. How does that make him a sell-out? How should that ever be considered something negative?
Perhaps there is a fear that those who “sell out” and “act white” will never come back and help their original communities. Will they simply leave and never identify with their ethnic roots, and simply become the enemy?
To a different extent, there seems to be some similar attitudes among Asian-Americans. Immigrant parents and grandparents worked hard for this current American-born generation to have every opportunity available to them. Yet they often seem uncomfortable when their American-born grandchildren and children adapt lifestyles, traditions, and even social circles that resemble more of white America than their “motherland.” For example, I celebrate American holidays more than Chinese holidays, hardly speak Chinese, and my values are more westernized. And my grandparents criticize me for that.
Ultimately, my task ministry is to bring Asian-Americans to be sell-outs. But it’s not about being a sell-out to Chinese culture, or to one’s family or tradition. It’s about betraying one’s old way of life: the way of sin.
Paul writes in Romans that the believer does not have to follow sin anymore:
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. -Romans 6:6-7
He goes on to write that believers have a new loyalty:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Do I want to be known as a sellout? Only if it means that I’ve decided to live a God-pleasing life. Even though I was once a slave to sin, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross and rose again on the third day. All I have to do is believe, and I can have a relationship with God, eternal life, and sin no longer has mastery over me. I can live my life in a God-pleasing way now. Have you trusted in Jesus Christ? Have you heard this message and placed your trust in Him? If you have, you can be a sellout too. A sellout for God.
Sure, there are all sorts of issues among African-Americans criticizing others for being “Uncle Tom” or being a “sellout.” And among Asian-Americans for betraying one’s ethnic roots. And these affect one’s self-identity and possibly the way they see the gospel. Ultimately, however, the real question should be: where is your loyalty, to sin or to God?