The news has been filled with controversies over police shootings lately. A disturbing percentage of these shootings have had the same attributes: white police officers shooting African-American suspects. With controversy surrounding the details of each of these shootings, there has been an uprising of voices claiming that these shootings are the result of racism.
Whether or not these shootings can be attributed to racism is not the concern of this article. Instead, it would be profitable to see what the Bible would say about racism to determine how a believer should respond in the face of racist claims.
In the Old Testament, God gave the nation of Israel certain commands and certain prohibitions. Among these were the commands to wipe out entire people groups from other nations (Num. 31:17-18; Deut. 20:16-18; 1 Sam. 15:3) and the prohibition against marrying men and women from other nations (Deut. 7:1-4). At a first glance, it would seem as though the Bible was supporting racism. But at a deeper look, it is clear that race is not the issue at all.
The command to destroy the other nations (especially those in Canaan) was not based on their race but was instead based on their false gods. God warned Moses about allowing the other nations to stay put, “lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Ex. 23:33). The command to destroy the other nations was a protective command because God knew that the other nations would lead Israel away from following Him and would instead worship false gods. The prohibition against interracial marriage was the same: if you inter-marry, you will worship their false gods, so don’t inter-marry. It was not about the color of their skin; it was about the gods they worshipped.
What We all Have in Common
No matter the color of someone’s skin, there is one thing that all people have in common: the image of God. When God was set to create the man and the woman, he said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26). While there are a few aspects to what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God, the fact that is most clear is that all humans possess this trait. We are all made in the image and likeness of God; it is part of what makes us human and unique from all other creatures. Regardless of the color of someone’s skin, he or she is made in the image and likeness of God, which means he or she possesses the same value and uniqueness as any other human. This means that racism cannot exist in the life of the believer.
A high view of the image of God in people should lead the believer to recognize the inherent value of each person. This is partly why Jesus said, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12). If I posses the image of God, I should treat another image-bearer in the same way that I would want to be treated because we posses the same identity and value. To degrade anyone based on his or her race is to degrade the image of God in that person — which is unacceptable to God.
Racism has been a problem for centuries, and the unfortunate reality is that it will continue in some areas. However, for the Christ-follower, racism should never exist in his or her life because that goes against the believer’s understanding of the image of God in every human and the command to love one another. If we truly love God, we will love those He has made, regardless of the color of their skin. We should stand up for the rights of those who are mistreated due to their race and should speak the truth of God’s Word in love to those who would promote racist beliefs. Remember: the Great Commission involves people being saved from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Matt. 28:19; Rev. 7:9). God values the lives and souls of those from every corner of the globe, regardless of their race… and so should we.
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