Though the Bible is silent on the topic of racism in terms of skin color, it does address prejudice, discrimination, antagonism and hostility directed against certain people groups because of race, ethnicity and nationality. Racism, by definition, is the belief that “different people groups posses distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another” (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Racism is making judgments on people, regarding them as inferior, and demonstrating partiality or bias against them. It is a problem we can’t ignore or run away from. It was present in Bible times and has taken place throughout the history of the United States, South Africa and every other nation in the world.
Reading through the New Testament, it is evident that Jews believed they were superior to Greeks, Romans and other Gentiles. Even those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah had difficulty coming to grips with the fact that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35, ESV).
Now to be fair, the Old Testament does state that Abraham’s descendants were special “above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut. 7:6, KJV). But Paul was clear that the Jewish advantage had nothing to do with biology, race, ethnicity or some other inherent quality. Rather, the Jews were blessed because they “were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2, ESV). He went on to make the point that the bearers of the good news that God had a cure for the malady of sin, were themselves infected with the disease. “For there is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile]: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (vs. 22-23, ESV).
The early Christian church experienced divisions caused by race—namely between Jews and Gentiles. Most of Paul’s letters were written to address the problem of Jewish believers who were trying to force non-Jewish (Gentile) believers to live and behave as cultural Jews. Rather than ignore or cave to the discrimination against Gentile believers on the part of many Jewish believers, Paul addressed the issue head on. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (Rom. 10:12).
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is clear—God makes no distinction between the inherent value of one race or ethnicity over another. He cares about people regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, and social status. God shows no favoritism, and James warns Christians that “if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (Js. 2:9, NIV). In Revelation, John saw a vision of “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” (Reve. 7:9-10).
Paul wrote to the Ephesians that Jesus’ death removed the “hostility” and introduced “peace” between people who were once alienated (Eph. 2:14-18). God isn’t about separation, but inclusion and unity. He is a reconciling God, and His message of salvation deals not only with our reconciliation with Him, but also the removal of prejudice and the restoration of human relationships.
God brings peace where there was once strife, and kindness where there was once animosity. If He’s reconciled us to Himself, this will be evident in the reconciliation between us and our neighbors—whether black, white, Latino, Asian, or otherwise. If we have a hatred and bitterness in our hearts towards other people, that means the Gospel has yet to penetrate our hearts, no matter how faithful we may be in participating in our religious rituals.
If we belong to Jesus, we will be part of His plan to bring reconciliation between people and God (2 Cor. 5:18-20). We are called to share how the life-changing message of Jesus creates healthy relationships between people, no matter who they are. Following Jesus includes reconciliation. His message is that we all belong at the same table, together—no separation, no difference in status or worth. No difference based on race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status or education.
“For as many of you as 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” (Gal. 3:27-28, NKJV).
All people are equal in creation and redemption. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26, NKJV).
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24, NIV)