Racism: Towards a Biblical Response

Charlottesville. In recent days, the city has become the center of controversy, and any mention of it is likely to draw out a response of some kind. Having lived just 65 miles from Charlottesville, I can attest to its beauty, and contrary to what we have seen in the news, its tranquility. So, in a certain sense, the events of last weekend were more the exception than the norm. And yet, for 36 hours, this peaceful college town was transformed into the epicenter of racial tension. You’ve heard the news reports, read articles and op-ed pieces, maybe even had discussions of your own, and to say that racism is a hot-button, potentially divisive issue is an understatement, for sure.

By God’s grace, I have been the Teaching Pastor at FBC since October 2016. Since then, I have preached 45 sermons, all of which have avoided delving into the sticky-mess that is politics. Simply put, my expertise is not political science, it is Biblical studies. Further, my job is to preach God’s Word, speak the truth in love, equip the saints for ministry, and love God’s people in word and deed. You don’t need my opinions—you need God’s truth! That said, there are times when shepherds must speak out concerning issues that can potentially threaten the flock.

Hear me well: racism is not a political issue, it is a spiritual one.  

Hear me well, again: racism of any kind (spoken, written, joked about, etc.) stands opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is incompatible with Christianity.

In its simplest definition, racism can be understood as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism against a person (or group of people) based on the underlying belief that one’s own race is superior. The expression of racism may be explicit and public, or it may be subtle and private—both are equally condemnable and have no place in the life of the Christian or the Church. Here’s why (this list is not exhaustive):

1.        God has created ALL human beings in His image (Genesis 1:26-27; Proverbs 22:2; James 3:9)

a.        Racism tragically disparages the image of God inherent within another person. You, me, and everyone else are God’s handiwork—every person, regardless of their skin color, heritage, or ethnicity, were formed by God Himself. Each person has an inherent value, and to some degree, reflects God Himself.

2.        God judges ALL human beings without partiality (Jeremiah 9:25-26; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:1-16; Colossians 3:25)

a.        The tragedy of racism, in part, is that it elevates one group of people at the expense of others. The Scriptures do not teach this; rather, they show us that we are all on an even playing field, and that God is good and just—He does not arbitrarily show favoritism to one group over another.

3.        God offers salvation to ALL human beings without partiality (Genesis 13:14-18; Jonah 1-4; Matthew 28:16-20; John 3-1-21; John 4; Acts 1:1-10; Romans 10:5-16; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Ephesians 2:1-22)

a.        Our spiritual condition was such that God sent His Son—a much-needed Savior—to secure salvation for otherwise helpless sinners. This gift is available to ALL who would turn from their sin and trust in Christ. The tragedy of racism is, at its core, works-righteousness—a belief that salvation can be secured through our own doing. In this case, “our own doing” is skin color. As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace—there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Even the faith required for salvation is a gift of God (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Racism tragically distorts the Gospel and renders it powerless.

As if these passages aren’t compelling enough, let’s consider Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:6-8:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

I mentioned earlier that racism of any kind stands opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is incompatible with Christianity. Why is that? Because one of the primary functions of the church is cross-cultural disciple-making. In other words, the very nature of the church’s mission transcends culture, race, ethnicity, gender, etc. To go further, one cannot call themselves a “Christian” while simultaneously ascribing to a belief that contradicts Christianity. A person cannot claim to love Jesus while also claiming to hate those whom He has told you to reach—there are no exceptions, and no acceptable “excuses.”

The events that have taken place recently can serve as an opportunity for self-examination and reflection. Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal any racist tendencies, or even overt racism. Then, if He graciously brings light to the darkness of your heart, do not be content to let it sit there. Do not reason with it. Do not negotiate with it. Instead, crucify it. Let the truth of 1 John 1:9-10 flood your heart: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess. Repent. Trust. Go and sin no more.