Given this reality, should the church say anything about race and racism? It is the work of the church to proclaim the truth of God's Word. So, does God's Word have anything to say about the issue of race? The answer, of course, is yes. Quite a bit, actually. Here are a few examples. (This is NOT an exhaustive list. All references are from the ESV.)
- Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
- John 4:9 "The Samaritan woman said to him, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)"
- Romans 10:12 "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him."
- Colossians 3:11 "Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all."
- Revelation 7:9-10 "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
Here are a few thoughts. They are not the only or the final thoughts or the thoughts to end all others. They are just some thoughts that I hope will be helpful and not hurtful.
First, scriptural principles regarding race we can draw based on the passages above (and others).
- All men are created in the image of God. The same Lord is Lord of all. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white (and every shade in between). All are precious in his sight. When David says the Lord knitted him together in his mother's womb and that he was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), we are to understand that God does this with EVERY human being - not just David and not just the ones who are the color we like best.
- Men, out of sinful hearts, produce all sorts of evil, including racism. Because we are proud, races of men (or other classifications - gender, giftedness, nationality, socioeconomic status) will view themselves as better than others and act accordingly. This is sinful. Period. James 2:1.9 "My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory...But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors." In between verses 1&9, the example is economic status, but the principle applies across the board: show no partiality.
- Jesus challenged racial and national prejudice and division. He associated with and spoke highly of Samaritans with whom the Jews had nothing to do. (See the woman at the well in John 4, the one leper out of ten who thanked Jesus in Luke 17, and the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10.) And of course he came to bring light to Jew and Gentile alike.
- Those in Christ have far more in common than the things that separate them; so much so that Paul can say there is no Jew/Gentile, male/female, etc. He's not arguing for flattening of racial or gender distinctions. He's showing the depth of the bond in Christ; this trumps every other distinction, and it will be so for all eternity.
Now, a few thoughts on how to apply these principles.
- Love your neighbor as yourself; no exception clauses there. Jesus' model of one who loved their neighbor (Luke 10:25-37) was from a hated class of people in Judea: the Samaritans. In world where little love is shown within a race let alone between races, our light should shine brightly here. Racial tension may flare in various places around our land, but let it not flare in our hearts towards the people around us. Perhaps as with marriage, our best witness and help to the world around us might not be shouting the definition of marriage, but a church full of joyful, thriving, Christ-centered, God-honoring marriages. I don't think this will solve all problems, but if the church doesn't get race (or marriage) right in our churches and communities, we shouldn't expect the rest of the world to. I don't mean to suggest that I or our church get this exactly right. I love GBC, but the lack of racial diversity makes me sad.
- John 4:39 "Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.'" Great good came because Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman. Would our prejudices have kept us from speaking to her? Do they keep us from speaking to other races today? Worse, do we demean other races by our words to them or about them? We should be gladly engaging the lost, whatever their race, with the gospel of Christ. Right after Romans 10:12 cited above, we read, "For 'everyone [Jew and Greek] who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?'" (Rom. 10:13-14). Christ must be proclaimed to all races under heaven! If your practice is to mock other races, don't deceive yourself into thinking you'd gladly share the gospel with them given the opportunity.
- Get comfortable with other races now, because they'll all be around the throne worshiping in heaven! As we are to strive for likeness to Christ in every other area, we must here as well. Then when we see him, we will be like him, and every trace of racism will be removed from our hearts. Just one more reason to look forward to heaven.