Racism is an ugly reality of American society. You may debate if things are getting better or worse. But no one can honestly deny the reality of racism in society. It is simply and sadly the way the world is.
Racism also rears its ugly head in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. This should not be so. Yet, unfortunately, it is true. There is no longer the open racism of slavery or segregation. Yet the spirit of racism is evident in our inability to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
The good news is that ethnic harmony is possible! For this to happen, the church must be the church. And the church can only live out its Christ-given nature, calling, and mission by confidence in and submission to biblical truth. The word of God is the answer.
Here are seven biblical principles that promote ethnic harmony…
God Created all mankind in his image.
The Bible unapologetically teaches that God created the world, and everything in it (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1-2). This includes every human being. Mankind is not the result of the random chance of an evolutionary process. God created us. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God created two genders of man – male and female. But God only created one race of man. Every human being has been created in the image of God.
Paul proclaimed, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:26-28). No life is an accident. The nations are God’s handiwork, just as much as the heavens and earth. The God who created us predetermined every detail our lives, including when and where we would live. The Lord is at work of the creation of every person and nation that we might seek him.
Every person is a fallen sinner.
God created all mankind in his image. This is an essential nature every person shares in common. But there is another essential factor we all share. Every person is a fallen sinner. Paul indicts us all: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve, all humankind is stained by the guilt of original sin. The blunt reality is that “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Not only are we all stained by original sin, we are all marked by pervasive depravity. We are sinners by nature, choice, and behavior. And every aspect of our human existence is marred by our sinfulness. The pride of supposed racial superiority is folly. Every person, family, tribe, ethnicity, nation is corrupted by sin. We sin against the Lord God. We also sin against one another, in multiple ways. Racism betrays our sinfulness. As sinners, we should honor others as better than ourselves. We do the direct opposite, looking down on others, especially those who are different than we are. But the truth is that we are guilty sinners who are doomed for eternity without the rescuing grace of God in Christ.
Racism is sin.
I trust this is a point that does not need to be argued. But let me state is as clearly as possible, nonetheless. Racism is a sin that grieves the heart of God the Father, dishonors the dignity of human beings made in the image of God, and injures persons, communities, and nations by harmful words, attitudes, and behavior.
Jesus commands, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In sinful pride, racism blatantly defies the Golden Rule. Likewise, Jesus instructs us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Racism refuses to acknowledge the equality and dignity or your neighbor, much less love them as you love yourself. James wrote, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). James applies this exhortation to the rich who oppress the poor. But the same principle applies to matters of ethnic harmony. The sin of racism dishonors the Lord of glory.
The blood of Jesus has created one new race.
The world Jesus entered was divided between Jews and Gentiles. This was about more than Jews being the separated people of God. There was deep-seated hostility between the two races. Jesus, by the blood of his cross, not only reconciled sinners to God; he also reconciled us to one another. “For he himself is our peace,” writes Paul “who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of history” (Ephesians 2:14).
The blood of Jesus Christ has created a new race of man. It is called the church. Christian baptism identifies us with this new race: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This does not mean Christians ignore, deny, or trivialize ethnic identity. It means our ethnic identity does not define us. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” writes Paul to the Galatians. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:27-28). Jews and Gentiles and every other ethnic group are made one by the blood of Christ.
The church is the hope of the world.
After the flood of Noah, God commanded the people to replenish the earth and multiply. In defiance, the people began to build a tower to reach the heavens. God put an end to their rebellion by confusing their languages. This is the biblical reason for the different nationalities scattered around the world. On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11), the nations of the world gathered in Jerusalem heard the Spirit-filled disciples of Christ praising God in their own dialects. The church is the divine reversal of Babel. Scattered nations become a united people in Christ.
Racism is a spiritual battle that can be overcome. But you cannot win spiritual battles with worldly weapons. This is why the hope of overcoming racism cannot truly be found in human effort, worldly philosophies, or even civil rights. The gospel, which reconciles God to sinners, must also reconcile sinners to one another. As a result, the church is the hope of the world. The church does not make a difference in the world as a religious institution. It does so as the body of Christ. Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
Ethnic harmony in the gospel glorifies Christ.
The one who embraces, condones, or promotes racism does not, cannot exalt Christ. With authority over heaven and earth, Christ commissions the church to make disciples of all nations. The glorified Christ reigns over all places and all peoples. And his sovereign authority is glorified when different ethnicities follow him together in spiritual harmony. By ethnic harmony, I do not mean a so-called “colorblindness” that is prone to ignore important differences and assume personal preferences. I mean spiritual “one another” fellowship that affirms our bond in Christ, prioritizes unity in Christ over ethnic differences, and loves one another as Christ has loved us.
John writes, “And they sang a new song, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10). Christ shed his blood to ransom the nations and make them a kingdom of priests. And Christ is glorified when his church on earth gets out its comfort zone, overcomes its prejudices, and exalts him together.
Racism will end at the Second coming of Christ.
In John’s Revelation, John writes, “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!’” (Revelation 7:9-10) Racism will end when the redeemed nations worship together at the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the meantime, we must be realistic, hopeful, and useful.
We must be realistic. There are sad realities of this fallen world that will not change until Jesus comes again. As a result, the stain of racism will continue to mark human relationships. No government, education, economy, religion or movement will erase racism. Only the return of Christ will finally make the world as it should be. Yet we should be hopeful. All things will not be right until Jesus comes again. But things can get better. The church has a holy duty, biblical mission, and unique opportunity to effect change in the world. But each of us, who are followers of Christ, must make ourselves useful to him. We are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). As we let the light of Christ shine in the darkness of racism, the world will see and glory the Father in heaven.