(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New International Version).
Racism is defined as the prejudicial perception that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races. It can also be considered as discriminatory or abusive behaviour towards members of another race (Offline English-Urdu Dictionary). The issues of racial superiority and racial discrimination are as old as mankind. Hatred and enemity based on racial and cultural differences have fuelled countless disputes and have resulted in several genocidal wars. How does Christianity view racism? What does the Bible expect of New Testament believers with respect to relations with people of other races? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.
In the Bible, from the Abrahamic era, humanity was basically divided into two races- the Jews and the non-Jews (the Gentiles). The Jews were descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. God chose and separated that race from the rest of humanity for the purpose of making his will and knowledge known to mankind, while highlighting the contrast between those who know him and those who don’t. The racial division of mankind into Jews and Gentiles was for the purpose of contrasting good with evil, godliness with ungodliness and morality with immorality. It was to enable the rest of humanity living in darkness see and appreciate God’s light in the Jewish camp. God was trying to teach mankind by contrast. God’s final aim was to provide a saviour through the godly Jewish race, who would ultimately abolish the racial divide and unite all mankind as one. This final purpose was accomplished by the Messiah Christ Jesus, whose death on Calvary abolished the racial enemity and prejudice between Jews and Gentiles and made humanity one again.
Ephesians 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) —
Ephesians 2:12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
Ephesians 2:15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,
Ephesians 2:16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Ephesians 2:17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Ephesians 2:21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Ephesians 2:22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
So, Christ’s death on the cross was designed to dismantle the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, and to turn both racial classes into one heavenly race of godly men and women- Christians! In Christ Jesus, we do not judge men after the flesh or after their races. In Christ Jesus, there’s neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Greek nor Barbarian, neither male nor female, neither bond nor free, for all are equal and one under God! In Christ, there’s no intrinsically superior race of men over others, for we’re all members of one body. The blood of Christ equalises all men and removes every fleshly and carnal prejudices. It abolishes all primordial pride, enemity, hatred, suspicion and mistrust based on ethnicity and race. In Christ Jesus, we build bridges among the sons of Adam, not walls, for we all came from one blood at the beginning, and the second Adam has restored us all back to that oneness!
Romans 10:11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Romans 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Galatians 3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
Galatians 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The Great Commission of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all men for the Lord was committed to the original Apostles who were all Jews. Initially, the intense anti-Gentile sentiments of the Jewish Apostles restrained them from preaching the gospel to people outside of their Jewish clan. It took heavy persecutions to disperse the Jewish disciples to other regions outside Jerusalem, where they were forced to minister to non-Jews, but first to Samaritans who were half-Jew, half-Gentile. Getting the Apostles to take the gospel to full-fledged Gentiles was an even more daunting task! The Lord had to prepare Peter especially for this task, by attempting to neutralise his deep-rooted racist sentiments with series of visions. Even at that, for Peter, entering the house of a Gentile to minister was like defiling himself! His preaching was with much reluctance and hesitation! It took God doing the unusual (baptising men with the Holy Spirit before water baptism) for the extremely bigoted Jews to accept that the Gentiles too could be saved! The racial bigotry was that intense!
The Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
The Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
The Acts 8:5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.
The Acts 10:9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
The Acts 10:10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
The Acts 10:11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.
The Acts 10:12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
The Acts 10:13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
The Acts 10:14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The Acts 10:15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
The Acts 10:16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
The Acts 10:17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate.
The Acts 10:18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
The Acts 10:19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you.
The Acts 10:20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
The Acts 10:21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
The Acts 10:22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
The Acts 10:23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.
The Acts 10:24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
The Acts 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.
The Acts 10:26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
The Acts 10:27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.
The Acts 10:28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
The Acts 10:29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
The Acts 10:30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me
The Acts 10:31 and said, ’Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.
The Acts 10:32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’
The Acts 10:33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
The Acts 10:34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism
The Acts 10:35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
The Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
The Acts 10:45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.
The Acts 10:46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,
The Acts 10:47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
The Acts 10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Despite this overwhelming evidence of the hand of God at work in literally forcing Peter and the other Jews to take the gospel to the Gentiles and minister salvation to them, Peter had a lot of explaining to do back home in Jerusalem, when the other Apostles heard that he went into the house of a Gentile! The Apostles were men filled with the Holy Spirit, yet racism was deeply ingrained in them! These were ministers of the gospel, yet systemic racism had blinded them to the truth of the gospel! The racism in these Jewish ministers was so deeply rooted that even with the divine encounter Peter had, he still went back into racial segregation and discrimination against the Gentiles! It took the racially liberated Paul to set Peter and the rest of the bigoted Jewish Apostles straight on the issue of racism. Paul didn’t hold back any punches in making Peter and the rest (including Barnabas his own partner) realise how fundamentally and systemically racist they were, even though they were men of God! They were so used to racism that it had become a normal way of life to them. Like a fish who had lived in a bowl all its life, the fish tank mentality had set in and coloured all their thoughts and actions. Racism is an insidious and deadly virus, for it poisons and defiles those in whose heart it’s found, without their ever realising they’re affected by it. Most times, the racist doesn’t believe he’s a racist at all!
The Acts 11:1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
The Acts 11:2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him
The Acts 11:3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
The Acts 11:4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story:
The Acts 11:5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was.
The Acts 11:6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds.
The Acts 11:7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ’Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
The Acts 11:8 “I replied, ’Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
The Acts 11:9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ’Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’
The Acts 11:10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
The Acts 11:11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying.
The Acts 11:12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.
The Acts 11:13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ’Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter.
The Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
The Acts 11:15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.
The Acts 11:16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ’John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
The Acts 11:17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
The Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
The Acts 11:20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
The Acts 11:21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Galatians 2:11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
Galatians 2:12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
Galatians 2:13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Galatians 2:14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Galatians 2:15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles
Galatians 2:16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
Galatians 2:18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
Racism is actually quite difficult to root out completely in any group, as we have seen with the relationship of the Jewish disciples to their Gentile counterparts in Christ. This is because pride is at the root of all racial prejudices. The ancestral pride and illustrious heritage of the Jews made it difficult for them to accept others on equal footing. How could those who had Abraham as their father accept to relate equally with those whose ancestry and lineage were traced to pagans and idol worshippers? But, a fundamental fact forgotten by the bigoted Jews and all other racists is that, our ancestry can be traced back to the same source, if we go back far enough. We all came from one stock- Adam. Though mankind splintered and divided into several branches along the way, we have a common heritage in our origin. We all came from Adam. One other fact the Jews conveniently chose to forget about their ancestry was that, even Abraham was a heathen before God called him! He was an idol worshipper that God picked out by grace and used as a starting point for a new beginning for mankind. So, Abraham was an uncircumcised heathen Gentile before he became a Jew! Our pride that leads to racial discrimination and a looking down on others will lose its footing if we understand that whatever we think we have that puts us above others are all free gifts of grace! We didn’t choose our ancestry. We didn’t choose our lineage. We didn’t choose our place of origin or of birth. And we didn’t merit them either! That knowledge should humble all of us and make us appreciate and glorify God in our diversity and racial and cultural differences.
The Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
The Acts 17:25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
The Acts 17:26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
The Acts 17:27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
The Acts 17:28 ’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ’We are his offspring.’
Joshua 24:14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
1 Corinthians 4:6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Jeremiah 9:23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,
Jeremiah 9:24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
How can we detect racism in our midst as Christians? How can we seriously stand up against racism in our environment? The first step would be to accept that racism is a sin! It’s a combination of pride, hatred and a lack of respect for other men and women made in God’s image, and whom even God respects and honours. Next, we need to accept the fact that, for those benefitting from racism, there’s usually a subconscious and reflex desire to deny the existence of systemic racism in our environment! The fish tank mentality may have conditioned us to see and accept racism as normal! We’ll need to step back a bit and look at things from a different angle of vision. Until we can accurately and objectively diagnose racism in ourselves and in others, we won’t be able to do much to root it out of our lives. A sincere prayer for God to shine his light in our hearts and expose our racist tendencies will help reveal the depth of racism in us. Only then can we begin to act in deliberate ways to counter our racist impulses. Racism is fundamentally a subconscious hatred of our racially different neighbours. The cure would be to apply God’s unconditional love to all, in an impartial way. The moment we’re able to love those not in our groups to the same degree as we do those of our race, we’ll cease to be racists. The moment we’re able to do unto others as we’d have them do unto us, racism will disappear. The law of love and the golden rule are the cure for racism- love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Be the good Samaritan! Above all, as Christians, we should not hesitate to demonstrate our hatred for racism by spearheading the fight for racial equality and justice. Like our Lord and Saviour, we should treat all men with love, dignity, respect and fairness. We should stand up for the downtrodden and be the voice of the voiceless! To sit back and be silent in the face of systemic racism is to be an accomplice to this evil! To close our eyes and ears to the plight of the persecuted is to strengthen their persecutors. To refuse to reach out to the racially wounded and bruised and bind up the brokenhearted is to choose to be the hypocritical priest and Levite, rather than the good Samaritan. We cannot be neutral in this matter. We’re either for racism or we’re against it, and our actions will show were we stand!
St. Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
St. Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
St. Matthew 5:45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
St. Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
St. Matthew 5:47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
St. Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
St. Matthew 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
St. Matthew 22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
St. Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
St. Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
St. Matthew 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
St. Matthew 22:39 And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’
St. Matthew 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
St. Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
In conclusion, racism is a natural impulse of the unregenerated soul, being a manifestation of pride, hatred, division and strife. Unfortunately, even Spirit-filled believers in Christ can be overwhelmed with racist impulses. The typical racist is usually unaware of, or readily denies, his racist tendencies, having been conditioned all his life by the systemic racism around him or her to accept racism as normal. A sincere inward searching of the soul by the Holy Spirit, coupled with critical self-examination, will reveal and expose our racist tendencies and prepare the way for deliverance. Deliberate counteractive actions must be taken thereafter to check our racist impulses and show God’s love in an impartial way to all. The unconditional love of God expressed to all men in an impartial manner is the cure for racism. To love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbours as ourselves (including those racially diverse from us) is the key to defeating racism. Once we’re able to do unto others as we expect them to do unto us, racism will be uprooted from our hearts.
Psalms 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
Psalms 139:24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (AKJV).
Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled (AKJV).
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