Whites and blacks. Black lives matter. Ethnic prejudice. Anger. Pain. Frustration. Protests. Do these things sound familiar? Issues of race and injustice are front and center of the national conversation at this time. Discrimination on the basis of skin color is loudly condemned. A Christian perspective echoes that condemnation. But, there is something essential that is largely absent from this national outcry: Why is such disciminatory behavior wrong? A secular culture that does not believe in absolute moral authority does not have the right answer to this deeply significant question. But, believers can have great confidence that the Bible does have the answer!
Here is the answer in simple terms: mistreatment of another person based on skin color is wrong because human beings are created in the image of God. Such mistreatment not only wrongs the individual, but it is also to sin against their Creator.
But modern society has rejected God as Creator. The theory of evolution is poured into the minds of young people in our educational institutions. If evolution is true-that human beings are evolved from random processes, the fittest survive, etc.-on what basis can the culture claim that racism is wrong? If we are just highly evolved animals walking around, why would it matter if some animals aren’t nice to others? It happens in the wild with lesser evolved animals all the time!
The reality is that the world system cannot provide a consistent answer because it does not affirm any absolute moral authority. Recognizing the authority and sovereignty of God, we as Christians can rightly claim racism as a moral evil because of what God has revealed in the Scriptures. The doctrine of Divine Creation is essential and foundational to this discussion. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” Being created in the image of God means, among other things, that every human being has inherent worth, dignity and value in the eyes of God. It’s true that mankind has fallen into a condition of sin and rebellion against God and is incapable of rescuing himself from this plight. Nevertheless, that Imago Dei (image of God) is still present within each human being. Because of this, God mandated capital punishment for those who would take away a human life in murder (Genesis 9:6). Scripture emphasizes this theme again in a way of practical instruction when James talks about our sinful words. He notes the inconsistency of speaking words of praise to God, while we also speak words that curse men made in God’s image (James 3:9).
Charles Darwin, seen as the father of evolutionary theory, is widely known and acclaimed for his published works. They have influenced generations of academic and cultural thought. But little is said in popular culture about how his evolutionary thought affected his view of different people groups. To quote him from his work, The Descent of Man: “The Western nations of Europe…now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization…The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.”
Contrast Darwin’s morally repulsive words with the words of Scripture where Paul said of God’s creation, “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:24). Notice that, according to this verse, there really aren’t multiple races. There is one race, the human race. There are many ‘nations’ (Greek word: ethnos). There are various people groups, tribes and clans but they are all made of one blood. Darwin had it wrong; God’s word has it right.
Maybe these truths will help you and me in conversations with people in our culture as these topics dominate the scene. The truth is, to devalue a person based on the color of their skin should repulse us, because it offends God! James 2 would categorize this as the sin of partiality. Arrogance, pride and failure to love one’s neighbor would also be appropriate categories.
As followers of Christ, our aim should be to treat every human being with kindness, respect and value. We should oppose injustice against any people group. But, let us also not be carried away with culture’s push to standardize identity politics: the black group, the white group, the women group, the LGBTQ group, and so much more. Let us see people ultimately from the lens of God’s word:
1. As human beings, male and female, created in God’s image, and therefore, possessing dignity and worth.
2. And also as fallen sinners in need of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Let us remember the beauty of what God has been doing. From many ethnos (nations), God has chosen a people for Himself. He gave them to His Son who redeemed them out of every ethnos (Revelation 5:9). The Holy Spirit is gathering them one by one in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. God calls this group of believers in Jesus Christ a “holy ethnos” (I Peter 2:9). One day, when this redeemed people is glorified soul and body, there will not be a segregated black section, white section, poor section or rich section. Rather, it will be a redeemed family delighting in and worshipping God the Father, Son and Spirit for all eternity. There will be no conflict in this family, but harmonious love in Christ Jesus.
Finally, here are some practical ways we can respond to this heavy situation in our nation:
1. Love your neighbour, whoever they are and however they look.
2. Be willing to engage in friendships and deep conversations (even when it’s awkward) with people of another ethnicity. We should acknowledge the evils of ethnic partiality that have sadly been practiced in our nation.
3. Repent of any attitude of sinful partiality that is present in our hearts. (We should acknowledge this is not a one-time struggle, but a continual one like with many other sinful attitudes). If you have knowingly offended someone with this sin, seek their forgiveness and move forward in Christian love.
4. Pray for God to change hearts by His Spirit and open up doors for the proclamation of the gospel.