• David Osteen

Parable of the Topaz Tepee

In a far away land and time there once were a nomadic people that lived in tepees. A tribe of 40 families all lived in tepees dyed red. One day, a family decided they would dye their tepee topaz. It was a beautiful color, but it caused the rest of the tribe to “look at the family differ-ently”. They soon began to be treated differently. The children were called names by their peers. In the night, sometimes people would throw eggs at their tepee. They were the same people. They were of the same family as all of these others, but now, simply because their tepee was a different color, they were being treated differently. Harshly. The families’ chil-dren were ridiculed and outcasts amongst their peers because of the color of the tepee in which they lived. As they grew older, started their own families, they too painted their tepees topaz. This further enraged the tribe. They began to further persecute the families with topaz tepees. They considered them to be inferior, unintelligent, and now… unworthy to be part of the tribe. They were soon persecuted to the point of being excommunicated from the tribe all together. Over time, the red tepee tribe sought to further harm and even enslave the topaz tepee tribe. It became a history of brutality, ugliness, and shame. They may have started out as a family, but over time those who lived in red tepees made enemies of those who lived in to-paz tepees. Why? Because of ignorance, arrogance, foolishness, and… because they couldn’t see past the color of the tepee to see what was inside the whole time. Their own blood.

Can we see how foolish it is in the parable for those who lived in red tepees to have such anger, hate, vitriol, and disgust for those who lived in topaz tepees? Can we see how wrong it was of them to unjustly treat those in topaz tepees the way that they did? And can we see, that the application to modern day racism is no different? That hating someone because of the color of their skin is no different than hating someone because of the color house they live in? That what makes a person great, honorable, noble, wise, kind, decent, and good… is not the color of house that they live in, but the “content of their character” (MLK)? What they do. To be good you have to do good. To do evil, and you are the same. Your color doesn’t matter.

In II Corinthians 5 the Holy Spirit reveals a powerful truth about our literal flesh.

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in-deed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life... There-fore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” ~ (2 Corinthians 5:1-9)

Our literal flesh is a “tent”. It is our earthly “home”. It is a “clothing” (root word “cloth”) that we wear in this realm. By its nature (tent/cloth) it is temporary. Our flesh is merely what we live in, not who we are! Paul’s greater point by inspiration is that in this earthly temporary home we are strive to please God so that we can have the eternal home (body—I Corinthians 15:35-53) of eternal life with God in Christ Jesus.

Our flesh is not who we are! It’s what we do in the flesh that determines who we are! This is the admonition that Paul gives, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” When we stand before God in judgement we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by what we have done in it. We will stand before God condemned if we stand before God with a life full of prejudice, racism, bigotry, supremacy, arrogance, and hatred in our hearts. We are liars if we say that we love God, but have not loved God’s children, our brethren (family) in the flesh. (I John 4:20-21).

In the parable one might reason, “Why couldn’t this family just paint their tepee red like everyone else and be accepted back into the group as an equal?” The better question is, “Why should they have to? What human frailty and vanity would cause a group of people to treat others so wrong, just because of the color of the house the live in?” When you look to history you can see this wrong committed by many nations, races, and peoples throughout time. When you look at the modern day news you can see the shame of racism alive and well. But what about when you look in the mirror? I pray, that when you look in the mirror, you will see someone who understands the love and will of God, and lives it. I hope you will see someone that loves their neighbor, and teaches the next generation to do the same in word and in deed. In short, I hope that when you look in the mirror... you see a true Christian.

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