Hard Questions: Race and Racism?
Who wants to be called a “racist?” Perhaps the most damaging and hurtful thing that is being said about someone today is an accusation of being a racist. I don’t know anyone who believes that racism is acceptable. In today’s culture, there is a massive movement to define everything wrong in our nation and the world as being rooted in racial tension and conflict. Is this true? The assumption is that it must be true and therefore any disagreement with such a proposition makes one a “racist.”
Today we hear terms like, systemic racism, white privilege, structural racism, white fragility, critical race theory, and many more. What are Christians to do in such a context? How are we to respond? Let’s begin with clear statements of conviction:
Statement #1: We believe the Bible is reliable and trustworthy.
Statement #2: The Bible is the filter through which we understand, interpret, view, and interact with the world.
Statement #3: A person’s view of gender and sexuality are directly connected to one’s worldview.
Statement #4: A Biblical worldview will uphold God’s view of gender and sexuality as revealed in the Bible.
Statement #5: A Biblical worldview affirms that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6; Acts 17:26).
Statement #6: Since all people are created in the image of God, we should affirm and support human dignity, equality, and the sanctity of life (Genesis 9:6).
Statement #7: “The Bible makes it clear that racism is wrong and entirely contradictory to God’s command to love our neighbors, His unconditional love, and the teachings of Jesus.”
“Racism is morally, socially, scientifically and biblically wrong. It is an ugly blot on our society…” Zig Ziglar
Scriptures to review:
- Luke 10:30-37 (Good Samaritan)
- John 4:1-45 (Jesus and the Samaritans)
- Romans 1:14
- Revelation 5:9
- Romans 3:29-30
- Romans 10:12-13
- Galatians 2:11-21
- Galatians 3:28
- Acts 10
- Acts 13
- Colossians 3:11
- James 2:9
- Racial division and prejudice are realities in a fallen world.
Racism isn’t a white thing, or a black thing, or a Latino thing, or an Asian thing. It’s a sinful, depraved, human heart thing, and we all have that in common. As John Owen said, “The seed of every sin is in every human heart.”
- The gospel is the only answer for the things that divide human beings.
- White Privilege
- White Fragility
- White Supremacy
- White Complicity
- Systemic Racism
- Structural Racism
- Critical Race Theory
(The following definitions are quotes from noted references)
When most Christians speak of racism, we are referring to the traditional, historic definition like that offered by Merriam-Webster: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Nor is Webster’s definition unique. The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as: A belief that one’s own racial or ethnic group is superior, or that other such groups represent a threat to one’s cultural identity, racial integrity, or economic well-being; (also) a belief that the members of different racial or ethnic groups possess specific characteristics, abilities, or qualities, which can be compared and evaluated. Hence: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against people of other racial or ethnic groups (or, more widely, of other nationalities), esp. based on such beliefs.1
Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior. Racism results in hatred, fear, and inhumane treatment toward someone because of the nation they’re from or the color of their skin.2
Colorism is a form of racism. It is defined as prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.3
Xenophobia is defined as dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. This, too, is a form of racism. Dislike or stereotyping of a whole nation is a grotesque form of racism that has caused wars and heinous acts against human beings.4
Racism in all forms goes against clear biblical principles of love, compassion, and servanthood.5
Definitions from Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham
White privilege: A series of unearned advantages that accrue to white people by virtue of their whiteness.
White Fragility: The inability and unwillingness of white people to talk about race due to the grip that whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege, white complicity, and white equilibrium exert on them (knowingly or unknowingly).
White Supremacy: Any belief, behavior, or system that supports, promotes, or enhances white privilege.
White Complicity: White people, through the practices of whiteness and by benefiting from white privilege, contribute to the maintenance of systemic racial injustice.
Critical Race Theory:
The Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on Critical Race Theory: Critical race theory (CRT), the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour.
“Critical Race Theory is incompatible with true Christianity” – Wade Burleson
"I believe that Critical Race Theory is not simply an analytical tool for helping us understand sociological issues in our culture. I believe that Critical Race Theory is embedded with a worldview that contradicts and is in opposition to a clear biblical worldview." – Darryl Craft
Ephesians 2:11–22 (NASB95)
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
A Biblical Understanding of Race
a. Imago Dei
The human race – created in the image of God, with equal dignity before God. The term race is often used to classify people based almost solely on physical characteristics.
All people trace their ancestry to one family, Noah and his sons. Noah and his sons trace their ancestry to Adam and Eve.
Acts 17:26 “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,”
“No biblical, biological, or experiential warrant exists to regard as ontologically superior or inferior any particular lump of clay from among humanity’s whole. Any illusion of anthropological superiority is countered by precept after precept in Scripture.”
- No human exists whose nature is not descendent from Adam (Gen 10:32; Acts 17:26; Rom 5:12–14) and subsequently Noah (Genesis 10:32–11:1, 8–9; cf. Deuteronomy 32:8).
- Subsequent to the Fall, God reckons “all flesh” indivisibly corrupt (Genesis 6:12–13, 17; cf. Jeremiah 25:29–33).
- God has a single undifferentiated torah—“instruction for [all] mankind” (2 Samuel 7:19; though the majority simply suppress that torah; John 3:16–21, 36; Matthew 7:12–14; Romans 1:18ff).
- In Christ—the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45; cf. Rom 5:15–19)—“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” (Gal 3:26–29) such that “there is no distinction” (Romans 3:22; 10:12; cf. Acts 15:9; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Joel 2:28, 32; Acts 2:17, 21).
- All humanity is “one kind” or race of being (Genesis 1:26–28; 5:3; 11:1; 1 Corinthians 15:39).6
"God’s Word does not tell us what color Adam and Eve were because God doesn’t equate membership in the human race with skin tone. Whatever color Adam and Eve (and their children) were, they contained in them the DNA designed by God that would eventually develop into a multi-colored family across a multi-colored world.” - David Platt
“He has revealed to us that every human is created in the image of God (James 3: 9). He has shown us that we all have the same human father and are therefore kinsmen by blood (Acts 17: 26). And he has made clear that, when his Son died on the cross for our sins, he “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5: 9). Racial harmony is a blood issue, not just a social issue. God has spoken. And he has acted. He has entered our world in the person of his Son. His word, his action, and his incarnation are the end of ethnic arrogance for those who embrace him as the Treasure of their lives.” Piper, John, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (p. 13). Crossway
The Bible teaches that at the heart of the sinful human predicament there is a deep alienation both from God and from people. Paul writes that we are by virtue of a sinful nature “being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). D.A. Carson rightly comments in his book “Love in Hard Places,”
The reason there are so many exhortations in the New Testament for Christians to love other Christians is because…the church itself is not made up of natural ‘friends’. It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. [The things that bind most other groups together.] Christians come together not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In this light, we are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus sake. That is the only reason why John 13:34-35 makes sense when Jesus says, “A new command I give you – love one another as I have loved you…” Christian love will stand out and bear witness to Jesus because it is a display for Jesus sake, of mutual love among social incompatibles.
Andrew Walls, a missiologist at the University of Edinburgh, has called Paul’s discussion of the comprehensive unity between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2), THE EPHESIANS MOMENT.7 Walls notes that what happened in the coming together of Jews and Gentiles in the early church was not simply a reconciliation of two ethnic groups, but two entire cultures and divergent world views.
The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups.
God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.
Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God's image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.
Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”8
B. Christ died for all
“There’s no such thing as a black church. There’s no such thing as a white church. The church don’t have no color. The only color there is, is red because of the blood of Jesus Christ.” - Sam Emory
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
And that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
C. God's Kingdom on Earth
i. Present – (the church)
ii. Future – (the restoration of all things) 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21
“Repeatedly the Bible calls the Christian church a new nation. We are ‘fellow citizens with God’s people’ (Ephesians 2:19); we are a ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), which literally means we are a new ethnicity. Our relationship to each other in Christ is to be stronger than our relationship to other members of our racial and national groups. When you become a Christian, you are not primarily from Ohio or Germany or Asia; you are not primarily Anglo, African-American, Asian, or Hispanic; you are not primarily white collar or blue collar. You are a citizen of God’s nation.”
God is the God of all the nations means that he will redeem a people for himself out of every nation. The election of Israel, from the very first moment, was aiming ultimately at the inclusion of all the peoples in the blessing of Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12: 3; cf. 18: 18; 22: 18; 26: 4; 28: 14; Jeremiah 4: 2; Acts 3: 25; Galatians 3: 8, 16). Piper, John (2011-09-08). Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (pp. 153-154). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
God created everyone, Jesus died for all people, the church is made up of all people, from all places, all tribes, and all tongues.
I believe that the gospel— the good news of Christ crucified in our place to remove the wrath of God and provide forgiveness of sins and power for sanctification— is our only hope for the kind of racial diversity and harmony that ultimately matters. If we abandon the fullness of the gospel to make racial and ethnic diversity quicker or easier, we create a mere shadow of the kingdom, an imitation. And we lose the one thing that can bring about Christ-exalting diversity and harmony. Any other kind is an alluring snare. For what does it profit a man if he gains complete diversity and loses his own soul? Piper, John, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (p. 41). Crossway
Revelation 5:9–10 (NASB95)
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
A Believer’s Response to Racism:
The Gospel: 1 Corinthians 15:1–5 (NASB95)
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
How Can Christians Respond to Racism?
Recent events first in Missouri, then at the University of Oklahoma, and now in South Carolina have revealed the ongoing nature of racism and discrimination. How can Christians respond to racism where they live?
First, Scripture is clear all people are created in God’s image. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Second, all people are of equal status in God’s sight. Galatians 3:28 teaches, “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.” This passage, written specifically to Christians, was intended to highlight the important equality we have as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Third, favoritism is sin. James clearly communicated, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism” (James 2:1, NIV). In verse 8 he adds, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”
Fourth, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In giving the greatest commandment, He stated to love God, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). There is no distinction for the skin color or ethnic background of our neighbor. Instead, when Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He gave the example of the Good Samaritan, a story in which a Samaritan helped a Jewish man, connecting two cultures that traditionally discriminated against one another.
Fifth, Jesus Christ died for all people, regardless of background. While not every person will be saved, people from every tribe, nation, language, and people will (Revelation 14:6). If followers of Christ will spend eternity with believers from all ethnic backgrounds in heaven, it follows that believers would seek to live in harmony with those of various backgrounds on earth today.
Racism is an ugly reality that continues to persist in modern America. However, Christians are called to live differently from the surrounding culture. We are to view all people as made in God’s image, of equal status, show no favoritism, love neighbor as self, and remember Christ died for all people.9
a. The gospel filters the way we see people.
We should see (look) at people the same way Jesus looks at them. Luke 10 – Good Samaritan
b. The gospel dictates the way we treat people.
We should treat people the same way Jesus would have treated them.
“Multiculturalism is the fruit of the gospel, not the gospel itself.”
c. The gospel motivates and models the way we love people. – John 4 - Samaritans
We should love people the same way Jesus loves them.
Our failures to love each other are rooted in our sin against God. When we are reconciled to God by the gospel of Christ, a new supernatural power enters our life, our family, our churches, and the world. This is the power of Jesus Christ alive within his people. Piper, John (2011-09-08). Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (p. 227). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
- A Biblical worldview determines our view and response to issues of race and racism.
- Generalizations and sweeping assumptions are not helpful.
- Ignoring the real existence of racism and racial issues is not an option.
- The answer to division and conflict is the gospel of Jesus Christ, not sociological constructs and agendas of secularists.
- One of the greatest ways churches can combat racism is have a Christ-exalting, multiethnic church. @DerwinLGray
1 Baucham Jr., Voddie. Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe (p. 81). Salem Books. Kindle Edition.
7 Walls, Andrew F. The Cross Cultural Process in Christian History. New York: Orbis Books, 2002. Pp. 72-81.