Pastor Jason, the current outcry about racism in our country raises the question about a scriptural perspective on the issue, i.e., what is racism, what does scripture say about it, and how can we guard against it in the church?
Well, that is a big thing, an important thing. Defining racism out of scripture is simple. It is sin. Sometimes, we can minimize or maximize racism by defining it differently. When you look at it scripturally, it is sin--and blasphemy against the creative act of God.
God created man in His image. When we say that one race or ethnicity is better than another, that speaks against God’s creative act itself. Racism was birthed with the Fall in the Garden, as it were, and shows up early in Genesis, with the account of Cain and Abel, as an example.
Later, even among God’s people, we see racism resurfacing. Miriam’s prejudice against the wife of Moses because of her ethnicity, to cite one instance. And God’s people continue in that struggle even today.
So, we need tools to prevent and overcome such an age-old issue.
First, we have to recognize the diversity of God Himself. There is diversity and sameness within the Trinity. All three persons in the Trinity are fully God, yet they are distinct and have different roles. Jesus dies on the cross, the Spirit indwells the believer, the Father sends the Son and the Spirit. That provides us with the first picture of beauty in diversity.
Then looking at God’s people in scripture, even when they were comprised of primarily one ethnicity, we never read where God looks down on others because of their ethnicity. They may be looked down upon because of their idol worship but that is much different than ethnicity.
There are many directives in the Law to welcome and protect the sojourner or those who come “under the umbrella” of God’s people. In fact, we see in the genealogy of Jesus that many women listed were not Jews. Ruth was Moab, Rahab was from Jericho. They were not Jews. That quells the “pure race” argument that sometimes appears.
In the New Testament, we read of Philip sharing the Gospel with the Ethiopian, who would have been a black man. Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross of Jesus, was a man of African descent. So, there are all of these pictures showing that the Gospel does not belong to one ethnicity or race.
When we teach that, we need to stress that. Our culture might mistakenly perceive Christianity as “white”. That does not reflect scripture and it certainly does not reflect church history.
We can also direct people to key texts such as I Peter 1:17 about God judging without partiality, or Romans 2:11 about God not showing favoritism, or Galatians 3:25-28 about all God’s children being united in Christ. The point of these, and so many other passages, is that we have no basis for partiality.
Finally, there is another layer of responsibility.
Many or most would agree that racism is wrong but then we don’t do much about it. Our mandate is to “do justice, practice mercy, walk humbly with the Lord” and to pray that “justice would roll down like a mighty river”.
These passages inform us of how we are to behave in our society. We walk humbly with the Lord when we listen to and care for our brothers and sisters of other ethnicities. We need to link that listening and caring to the Gospel—which is good news for all.