When you permit feelings in your heart of dislike and suspicion and disdain toward a person of a different skin color, you are blaspheming the majesty of the Creator God. You are denouncing the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. You are despising the shed blood of the cross. You are slandering the power of God in shaping men and women of all ethnicities in his image. You are denigrating and denying the purpose of God in redeeming men and women of all ethnicities and colors and making them a kingdom of priests. Racism is blasphemy.
Anyone who thinks that we’ve made substantial progress in resolving the problem of racial disharmony and animosity in our society is simply not paying attention. The violent events that have filled our streets in the past week together with the response from both the white and African-American communities clearly demonstrate that mistrust, suspicion, and even hatred across the racial divide are rampant in virtually every sector in our society.
So today we turn our attention to 10 things that all of us need to know about race and racism.
(1) There is only one race. It is called the “human race”. All men and women of every color, from every tongue, tribe, and nation are descendants of the same father and mother: Adam and Eve. All human beings, therefore, are united by blood. Look at the words of the apostle Paul in Acts 17:26 –
“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” (Acts 17:26).
The physiological differences that exist among humans, whether it be color of skin or texture of hair or accent in speech, are nothing in comparison with the fundamental unity that we share by virtue of our descent from the same original pair: Adam and Eve.
It will come as something of a surprise to most of you that the word “race” never appears in the Bible in reference to different people groups or ethnicities.
Technically speaking, there is no such thing as “race”. As noted above, there is one “human race” of which all men and women are members. Within that one human race, all of whom are descended from the original pair, Adam and Eve, there are multiple diverse ethnicities. The word “race” differentiates between people based largely on a single physical attribute: skin color. But “ethnicity” is more than the color of one’s skin. It also entails a variety of cultural factors: dress, language, food, beliefs, attitudes, customs, etc. Race as a way of classifying human beings based on physiological differences is not found in the Bible.
There is a very real sense in which every person is of mixed “race”. There is no pure race that is free from the mixture of multiple ethnicities. There are varying degrees of “race”. I am a blonde-haired, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Caucasian. But I’m also 1/16 Creek Indian who for years voted for the tribal chief. Race, then, is a fluid concept with no clear, definable boundaries. Race is always a matter of degree.
Having said that, I don’t think it is possible to eliminate the term “race” from our common vocabulary. It is too deeply embedded in our society.
(2) What is “racism”? Or we could also ask, what is “ethno-centricity”? How should we define these words? The PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) in 2004 defined it as follows: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.”
So, if you find in your heart and mind a belief that one group of people is qualitatively different from or better than another, you are guilty of racism. If your behavior is such that you place a higher value on one group of people above another, primarily based on some physical attribute, such as the difference in color of skin, you are a racist.
Personal faith in Jesus Christ and a saving relationship with him is the end of ethnocentrism. The people of God are no longer defined by their ethnicity, as was the case since the call of Abraham during the OT. Since the cross and resurrection of Jesus the people of God are defined Christo-centrically, by virtue of their response to and relationship with Jesus:
“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. 3:28).
(3) What is the cause of racism or ethno-centrism?