Despite the tremendous strides America has made in pursuing racial reconciliation and equality in recent decades, once again overt racism has reared its ugly head.
This is a stain on our nation’s character and an obscenity in God’s world—therefore we Christians must redouble our efforts to speak His truth about race.
While some have twisted the Scriptures on this issue, particularly in the time surrounding the Civil War, here is a biblical case against racism.
Right at creation, Genesis chapter one states that we are all created in God’s image. As Paul told the philosophers in Athens, “And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth. . .” When you get right down to it, there really is only one race—it’s called the human race. In that sense, we’re all brothers, equal in dignity and intrinsic value.
From God’s plan of redemption, we see that all human beings, though created in His image, “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The good news is that, as John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Just as we’re all equally shattered vessels, we are all equally candidates for the Lord’s mercy and grace.
Indeed, despite our outward differences, the Church is to be a spiritual and visual display of our essential unity in Christ. Let’s not forget that the early church was multiethnic, with Jews and Gentiles. Just take a look at the list of those present at Pentecost in Acts 2! Remember that Africans such as Simon and Lucius of Cyrene, and the Ethiopian eunuch, played prominent roles in the body. And as Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
That’s no accident. God’s unshakeable and irresistible goal is for people of every tongue, tribe, and nation to worship His Son, Jesus Christ. Revelation 7:9 says, “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.”
That verse alone ought to be the death knell of racism! God is glorified when people of all races worship His Son. It is a picture of the coming heavenly kingdom that we can glimpse right now.
From church history, we see a growing recognition that the universal human dignity taught by a Christian worldview is totally incompatible with slavery. Historian Rodney Stark has documented a long history of anti-slavery sentiment in the Church from the seventh century onward, culminating in Papal bulls against slavery and the slave trade in the 1400s and 1500s.
Now of course we all know of the monstrous evil of race-based slavery, which grew like a cancer in the West. Greed, prejudice, and misguided interpretations of the Bible paved the way for many Christians to join in, or just to look the other way. What a shame.
But the redoubtable William Wilberforce led the movement to abolish the slave trade across the British Empire. Christian abolitionists in the United States bravely made the case against racism and slavery, although the latter was settled only by civil war.
In more recent times, others—Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement; Jackie Robinson, who took the heat in professional sports; Billy Graham, who integrated his crusades; and Rosa Parks, who refused to go to the back of the bus—all these heroes and more condemned and fought against racism in word and deed.
Sadly but clearly, that task is not over. Especially for the Church.