“…He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26).
Racism is not just a political issue, and it cannot be fixed through political means or force. It is the symptom of a much greater problem, and this is not a problem that will ever be legislated or forced away by violence. First, and even most significantly, racism is a moral and spiritual issue. It is, at its heart, a failure to understand and appreciate that all humans are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). “Human” is not a skin color or ethnicity. Being human does not depend on being a particular ethnic background. The greatest human quality is that of mirroring God’s image, and this is shared by all humans, however imperfectly.
As sin entered the scene of human history, God put a plan into effect that would allow humans to be saved from their sins and the corruption of the world. To do this, He called out a particular person, Abraham, and through him a particular nation, which came to be called Israel. Through this nation He would bring about His promises. His purpose in doing this was so that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The reason He maintained a distinction between His chosen people and all others (gentiles) was to keep them holy as His people (see Josh 23:4-13). The danger was not in other ethnicities per se (as is seen in the fact both Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles who became part of Christ’s lineage); the danger was that paganism had become standard among the nations and He wanted them to stay away from the influences that would lead them down that path of worshipping other gods.
God’s plan all along encompassed the idea that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would bring together all nations into one. This is not to say that all nations would become one big worldly kingdom. Rather, all nations would unite together in Christ as one “chosen race” and “holy nation” who would proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). In this holy nation, there are no distinctions to be made when it comes to the outward matters of skin color. In Christ, there is no “white church” or “black church.” Such distinctions are unknown to the Gospel. Should Christians, then, continue to perpetuate them? Shall we willingly participate in the worldly stereotypes that only divide?
Perhaps the earliest, most significant challenges for the church came in the form of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 15). Let’s just say they typically didn’t care for each other very much. There was initial reluctance on the part of the Jewish Christians to preach to the Gentiles, as is seen in Peter’s response to the Lord’s desire for him to go Cornelius, a Gentile soldier (Acts 10). It took a vision and a command for Peter to get it, and once he did, there was no turning back. “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (vs. 28). It may have been a bit shocking, then, for some fellow Jews to hear Peter declare:
“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
God’s will is that all come to repentance, that all will come to the knowledge of the truth (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4). Racism is a denial that Christ died for all. It is a denial of God’s desire for all to know the truth. It is a denial of the unity desired by the Lord. It is a denial of the gospel. It is sin.
Again, Peter said, “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:42-43). Everyone. No one is out in this endeavor.
Political agendas will be what they are. God’s people need to transcend the clamor and evil trappings of the world in order to be what God intends. To be effective in reaching out to the world, we cannot pull back our hands because those of another person are a different shade. All hands are made by the same God, who desires all to be in His fellowship. Dare we deny this most important desire of God?
In truth, there is only one race. It is the human race. And there is only one holy nation, comprised of all of God’s people, who transcend the boundaries and borders of worldly kingdoms and earthly cultures. May God help us all to see all humans for who they really are—made in His image, fallen, and in need of His grace and mercy.