What Does the Bible Say About Racism?
With everything that is going on in our world, there continue to exist tragedies that remind us that racism remains a prominent issue. The surfacing of the recent video of the death of Ahmaud Arbery has reignited the sentiments surrounding inequality, injustice, and racial inequality. I often wonder how many more tragedies it is going to take for people to wake up to this saddening reality. Honestly, I don’t know.
The impact racism has on our community is grave and it constantly serves as a reminder of a world of horrors that we, today, are still not very far from. Progress has been made, but there is still so much work to do. People wonder what they can do to help it, fix it, or make it better. As a black believer, I encourage fellow believers to turn to The Bible and ask, Can you love God but hate his people?
Partiality, Judgement, and Loving Others
The Bible provides us with the resources to live a God-centered life and is not silent on the topics of partiality, judging others based on appearance, and loving others. It is very clear that the Bible condemns racism.
The Bible also teaches us that God is an impartial God. He shows no partiality towards certain races nor does he favor one type of person over another. We are all seen as the same in Christ. In Acts, Peter comes to the realization that God shows no partiality, saying,
Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
“Every nation” and “anyone” are words that tell us that across nations, anyone and everyone that fears him and does right is acceptable to him. This means that God’s love for his people crosses over racial and ethnic backgrounds too. In James 2 we find these words,
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Evidently, God commands us not to show partiality toward others or show favor of one person over another due to their ethnicity, nationality, wealth, or appearance.
Judging Others Based on Appearance
Jesus, at the Feast of Booths, tells the crowd “Do not judge by appearance, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24), and in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel when David is anointed king, God tells Samuel,
Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
-1 Samuel 16:7
These words reveal to us God’s true nature and the basis upon which he passes judgment. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin, what clothes you wear, and the number of good deeds you’ve done. He searches your heart.
The environments we grow up in shape and influence our beliefs, judgments, biases, and prejudices. However, one’s unique exposure, or lack thereof, does not provide us with a proper excuse for the decisions we make, and how we choose to love others.
1 John is very clear on loving others and God, as it states:
If anyone says “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
-1 John 4:20
We Love God by Loving All His People
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we humans have found ways to distinguish ourselves from other people, allowing that separation to shape our thoughts (see James 2:4). Much of this is due to our human nature and sin. However, we have to make the conscious decision to look beyond our differences and see people for who they are: made in the image of God.
The Bible is very vocal about God’s love for his people who are made in His image. In the book of Genesis, on the sixth day, God created man. He said,
“Let us make the man [humankind] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish in the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, and in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
The word “created” appears three times along with the word “make.” We were created in His image with such intentionality. God made no mistakes. We are all made in His likeness and that includes people of every ethnicity, nationality, and tribe.
As we go deeper into Scripture, we discover passages like 1 John 4:20 and see how crucial it is to love others well. With the coming of Christ, we were given a new commandment about loving others in John 13, and this command appears in the New Testament eleven times. Jesus said,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
He also tells us to “treat others as you wish to be treated” (Matthew 7:12) and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
Search Your Heart
Through Christ, we are unified and the gift of salvation is available to people of all ethnicities. His grace is universally available to different people groups. In Galatians Paul tells us:
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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 verse is one of my favorites because it tells us that despite the degrees of separation that we’ve created, believers are one in Christ.
So what can people do to work against racism? They can search their own hearts and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them any prejudices, thoughts, or assumptions that are discriminatory. They can seek God’s truth and extend love to everyone whether they look just like them or different. They can be vessels of change, speak up, and hold others accountable.