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Is Racism Christian?


The Question:

Can you be a Christian and be racist?


The Answer:

From the "Racial Reconciliation Vision Initiative For WAM [World Aflame Ministries]", used by permission.

The love of God shines most brightly through us as we love people that our culture says that we should not love. The true love of Jesus will find its expression in sacrificial deeds of joyful love in His name. The cry of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God's people is for a fresh, decisive emphasis on relationships of Love.

Therefore we eagerly embrace God's call for new, visible manifestations of love toward each other, our guests and our neighbors. With a fresh openness and outgoing spirit to each other and to all new people, we henceforth put understanding above accusation, forbearance above faultfinding, and seek God’s help in finding Biblical unity in the beauty of diversity.

Sunday morning in America is the most racially segregated time of the week. At WAM it is our stated goal to embrace and demonstrate the love of God to all humanity by taking new steps personally and corporately toward authentic love and racial reconciliation. It is our desire that the inter-racial fellowship of WAM be a demonstration of the love of God to our community.

I believe that Midwest City is a city of destiny and WAM is a strategic part of God's plan in demonstrating the unifying and delivering power of the Spirit as he tears down the walls that have divided us and binds us together in real person-to-person love. The time is ripe for us as a church to put some fresh energy behind this issue and work on it.

Eight Reasons for Racial Reconciliation to be an important issue for us:

1. God Made All Ethnic Groups from One Human Ancestor.

Acts 17:26 From one man he [God] made every nation of men. . .

The phrase "every nation of men" comes from the Greek phrase "pan ethnos" which means "every ethnic group".

Acts 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. (NIV)

Notice two things from this text.

First, notice that God is the MAKER of ethnic groups. "God made from one every nation." Ethnic groups do not just come about by random genetic change. They come about by God's design and purpose. The text plainly says, "GOD made every ethnos."

Second, notice that God made all the ethnic groups from one human ancestor. Paul says, "He made FROM ONE every ethnos." This statement gains special significance when you consider that he chose to say this to these Athenians on the Areopagus. The Athenians were very proud of their ethnic heritage, feeling superior because of their race.

Paul chooses to confront this ethnic pride head on. God made all the ethnic groups -- Athenians and Barbarians -- and he made them out of one common stock. So you Athenians are cut from the same cloth as those despised Barbarians and Scythians.

Mal 2:10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers? (NKJ)

2. All Members of Every Ethnic Group Are Made in the Image of God.

Genesis 1:27. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

When you put this teaching of Genesis 1 (that God created the first man in his image) together with the teaching of Acts 17:26 (that God made all the ethnic groups from this first ancestor), what emerges is that ALL MEMBERS OF ALL ETHNIC GROUPS ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD.

No matter what the skin color or facial features or hair texture or other genetic traits, every human being in every ethnic group has an immortal soul in the image of God: a mind with unique, God-like reasoning powers, a heart with capacities for moral judgments and spiritual affections, and a potential for relationship with God that sets every person utterly apart from all the animals which God has made.

Every human being, whatever color, shape, age, gender, intelligence, health or social class, is made in the image of God.

3. Members of Different Races Are A Lot More Alike Than They are Different.

Our Racial Distinctiveness is Relatively Minor When Compared to the Things that We Have In Common As Human Beings. In determining the significance of who you are, being a person in the image of God compares to ethnic distinctives the way the noonday sun compares to a candlestick. Finding your main identity in whiteness or blackness or any other ethnic color or trait is like boasting that you carry a candle to light the cloudless noonday sky. Candles have their place, but not to light the day. So color and ethnicity have their place, but not as the main glory and wonder of our identity as human beings. The primary glory of who we are is what unites us in our God-like humanity, not what differentiates us in our ethnicity.

It is much more profitable for us to accent how we are the same, how we face common struggles, how we strive to know God and each other than it is to spend a lot of time honoring the things about us that are different and tend to separate us. Diversity training which is intended to make us understand and respect the differences of races usually backfires because it focuses major attention on what is comparatively minor (differences), and virtually no attention on what is infinitely, gloriously major -- our common, unique standing among all creation as persons created in the image of God.

If our sons and our daughters have a hundred eggs, let us teach them to put ninety-nine eggs in the basket called personhood in the image of God and one egg in the basket called ethnic distinction. Let's spend our time celebrating the things that make us one instead of focusing on the things that divide us.

4. The Curse of Noah on Some of Ham's Descendants (Canaan) is Totally Irrelevant in Deciding How the Black Race is to be Viewed and Treated.

Gen 9:24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." (NIV)

Over the centuries some people have tried to prove that the black race is destined to be subservient because of Noah's words over his son Ham who was the father of the African peoples.

Remember, Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Gen 9:21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father's nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." (NIV)

Now notice three things:

First, Noah on the occasion of the sin of his son Ham, uses it to make a prediction about the posterity of Ham's youngest son, Canaan. Basically the prediction is that the Canaanites will eventually be overpowered by the descendants of Seth and Japheth.

The relevant point here is Ham had four sons, according to Genesis 10:6 "The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan."

Now broadly speaking Cush is probably the ancestor of the peoples of Ethiopia; Mizraim is the ancestor of the Egyptians; and Put is the ancestor of the peoples of northern Africa, the Libyans. But Canaan is the one son of the four who is the not the ancestor of African peoples.

Gen 10:15-19 15 Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. (NIV)

All those peoples were the inhabitants of Canaan and its vicinity, not Africa. And the prediction of Noah came true when the Canaanite nations were driven out by the Israelites because of their wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4-5). So the curse doesn't fall on the African peoples but on the Canaanites.

Second, the predicted curse of Noah does not dictate how God's people should treat individual Canaanites. For example, five chapters later in Genesis 14:18, Abraham, the descendant of Seth, meets a native Canaanite, named Melchizedek who was a righteous man and "priest of God Most High" and who blessed Abraham. Abraham gave him a tenth of his spoils. So not even the fact that God intends to bring judgment on evil nations dictates for us how we are to treat individuals in those nations.

Third, in Genesis 12, God sets in motion a great plan of redemption for all the nations to rescue them from this and every other curse of sin and judgment. He chose Abram made a covenant with him and promises, "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." "All the families of the earth" includes the Canaanite families.

So, what we see is that with Abraham God is setting in motion a plan of redemption that reverses the curse for everyone who receives the blessing of Abraham, namely, the forgiveness and acceptance of God that comes through Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:13-14).

Which leads us to the fifth point:

5. It Is God's Purpose and Command That We Make Disciples for Jesus Christ from Every Ethnic Group in the World, Without Distinction.

Matt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV)

Make disciples of "all nations" -- that means every ethnic group. It's the same phrase we saw in Acts 17:26, where it says he made from one "every nation" -- every ethnic group. Just as every individual of all ethnic groups is created in the image of God, so God aims to redeem people of every ethnic group. Being in God's image doesn't mean we are saved. We are all distorted by sin. The unique ways that we were created to reflect the glory and worth of God have been largely ruined. So God has sent his Son, Jesus into the world to die for us so that we might believe in Him and be forgiven and cleansed and restored, and become trophies of his grace.

6. All Believers in Jesus Christ, of Every Ethnic Group, Are United to Each Other Not Only in a Common Humanity in the Image of God, but Even More, as Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Members of the Same Body.

Rom 12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (NIV)

The body of Christ has no ethnic identity. In Christ, race is absolutely not an issue.

Rom 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, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (NIV)

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Every believer is a part of the body of Christ - a vitally important and valuable part.

1Cor 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (NIV)

The Bible uses the metaphor of the family to illustrate our relationships to each other as Christians too.

1John 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.

In other words, if our identity as human persons created in the image of God is greater than all ethnic distinctives (#3 above), then our identity as re-born children of God is even greater still than all ethnic differences.

Let me put it like this: The glory of our family likeness in Christ completely overwhelms any ethnic differences. As we saw earlier, we are more united by our humanity than separated by our ethnicity. But it is an even greater truth that in Christ we have unity upon unity. On top of a COMMON HUMAN PERSONHOOD in the image of God, we have a COMMON REDEEMED PERSONHOOD in the image of Christ.

In other words, as I have said to you repeatedly from the pulpit, "The things that bind us together are much greater than the things that divide us".

Col 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (NIV)

7. The Bible Forbids Intermarriage Between Believer and Unbeliever but Not Between Members of Different Ethnic Groups.

1Cor 7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. (NIV)

"He must belong to the Lord" - that's the real issue. The Bible directs us plainly not to marry unbelievers. If we are already married to an unbeliever we are to stay married (1Corinthians 7:12-13; 1Peter 3:1-6). But if we are free to marry, we are to marry only one who shares our allegiance to Jesus.

This was the main point of the Old Testament warnings about marrying those among the pagan nations. For example, Deuteronomy 7:3-4. . .

Deut 7:3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. (NIV)

The issue is not the mixing of colors or customs, or clan identities or even cultures. The issue is marrying outside one's faith. The first issue in finding a mate is to find someone that loves Jesus. If there is not a common allegiance to the true God, there will be divided affections. The PROHIBITION IN GOD'S WORD IS NOT AGAINST INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE, BUT AGAINST MARRIAGE BETWEEN BELIEVER AND UNBELIEVER. Remember, the basis of our identity is not primarily ethnic, but our common humanity in the image of God and our new humanity in the image of Christ.

8. Therefore, Let us Love One Another.

John 13:34 [Jesus said] "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)

1Pet 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (NIV)

1John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (NIV)

Let us repent of every secret feeling of racial superiority. It is a sin!

Let us banish every belittling and unloving thought from our minds.

Let us put every word or tone of ridicule or disdain out of our minds and our mouths.

Let us go out of our way to show personal, affectionate oneness with Christians of all ethnic backgrounds.

Let us be the salt and the light in our hostile and fearful society with courageous acts of inter-racial kindness and respect.

Finally, let us look to Christ to be forgiven, cleansed, healed and empowered to love.


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