What the Bible says about racism

(BNC) by Johnny O. Trail — We live in an age that is racially divided.  Just recently, two cities in the Middle Tennessee area were forced to host rallies that were being conducted by the White Lives Matter (WLM) group.  As a result of this demonstration, several businesses closed and boarded up their storefronts to avoid having their stores destroyed and looted by demonstrators and any person who might become violent.

These white supremacist groups are not alone in their perverse views regarding the superiority of one group over another.   As a small child, I remember KKK rallies in my hometown.  To me, these demonstrations were always frightening.  Grown men would be wearing white robes and pointed white hats yelling racially charged messages to the various news outlets that would cover their hate filled rhetoric.

It is arrogant to believe that one racial group is superior to another simply because of their skin color or ethnicity.  In reality, most every person in our nation is racially mixed in some manner or another.  In light of these considerations, what does the Bible teach about racism?

For one thing, salvation is for every person.  Jude 3 says, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”  The salvation that Jude was writing about was “common” because it was intended for every person regardless of their race or ethnicity (Galatians 3.28).

The ministry of Christ is filled with examples of the Master loving people regardless of their ethnicity.  John chapter four is a wonderful example of this attitude.  John 4. 4-5 says, “And he must needs go through Samaria.  Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.”  Even though it added many more miles to the journey, most Jews avoid traveling through the regions of Samaria, because they hated the Samaritans.

Instead of allowing this racism to cloud His reasoning, Jesus traveled directly through that region, and we have a beautiful account of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman.  Because of Jesus’ efforts, the evangelist Philip would travel into that region and convert many people to Christ (Acts 8.5-12).  John 4:35-38 says,

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”

Where would all of humankind be if the Master judged according to ethnicity and skin tone?

As incredible as it might sound, Jesus was the victim of racial slurs.  As His interaction with the Pharisees spiraled downward, He was attacked and ridiculed with greater hostility.  In John 8.48 they said to Him, “Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?”  Being omniscient, Jesus was well aware of what they meant.  One might imagine that a loving Savior was not offended to be compared with individuals who were created in His spiritual image.  He loved all people (John 3.16).

To this, we might add the encouragement that Peter had to receive regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God.  Acts 11.1-9 says,

“And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.  And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.  But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.  And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.  But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.  But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.  And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.”

Peter, for a limited time it seems, received some clarity about the relationship that God has with all humanity.  He said, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:  But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10.34-35).  Sadly, the ethnocentric nature of Judaism would rear its head again in Peter’s life.

Later on, Peter would be chastised by Paul for withdrawing himself from the Gentiles to eat a meal.  Galatians 2:11-13 says,

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.  For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

Race and ethnicity was a potentially dividing factor in the first century church.

Sadly, there was also division over socioeconomic status.  In James 2.9 we read, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”  This same mindset exists in some of our brethren to this very day.  I have personally known of people who have chosen more affluent congregations to improve their business contacts. Affluence alone is not sinful.  However, one should choose a church because of its soundness and service not because of the economic opportunities it offers.

God loves all of humankind (John 3.16).  His love of the people in Nineveh underscores this very thing.  Jonah 4.1-4 says,

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.   And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.  Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.  Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?”

The people of Nineveh were sinful, but God’s longsuffering allowed them time to change their behaviors.  Jehovah’s compassion was not based upon their national identity.

Suffice it to say, God expects us to love everyone—even those who would be our enemies. Matthew 5.43-48 says,

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Even if we consider those of a different race to be our enemy, God expects His people to love them.

Racism is against the very fiber of God’s ideal will for humankind.  He sent His Son to die for the entire world.  “Red and Yellow, Black and White, Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.”  God’s people need to have this same attitude regarding their fellow man.

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

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