racism and the Bible

©2018 michael martin | mike@truthquest.org

the problem of racism

Did you ever paint a picture with different colors of paints? You may have begun with the basic colors of red, blue and yellow, and perhaps some orange, purple and green. But do you remember what happened when your colors started to get all mixed up? Do you remember what color it made?

Sadly, it seems that much of our world is obsessed with the different colors we see among the different people groups of the world. Tragically, mankind’s obsession with these differences has resulted in racism.

Racism is the practice of considering one group of people as being better, or superior, to another group of people based upon what they look like.

Throughout history, the sinful practice of racism has resulted in everything to minor mistreatment of people to efforts to completely exterminate entire people groups.

Racism has been carried out by people outside of the church, and sadly, even people from within the church. Here, we’re going to take a look at what the Bible says about racism.

a. favoritism

One of the ways in which racism is often practiced is in showing favoritism to one people group over another. Sadly, this has happened throughout history and continues to happen today. And any people group can (and do) behave as racists toward other people groups.

But God commands us not to show favoritism. Look at this example:

james 2:1-9

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

In this passage, we are given the example of treating rich people better than we treat poor people. But the same example can be applied to treating people of one skin color better than we treat people of another skin color. The Bible clearly commands us not to show favoritism, and as we are about to see, God Himself does not show favoritism:

acts 10:34-36

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Romans 2:9-11

There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

So, if God doesn’t show favoritism, we shouldn’t either!

b. hating others is wrong

Some people go beyond showing favoritism and actually show hatred toward people of different “races.” For us, as fallen, sinful humans, it is not only silly for us to hate one another (because we all share the same basic struggle with sin), but it is also sinful.

1 john 2:9-11

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Here, we see that anyone who claims to love God cannot hate others.

1 john 3:15

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

A murderer? Yup. That’s what God says about those who hate their brothers. Clearly, God takes hatred between us very seriously.

1 john 4:19-21

We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Think about it. How can we love God, who we have not seen, when we hate another human being whom we can see? The Bible is very clear. If we love God, we must love our brothers and sisters, and there is no allowance made here for what color their skin is!

c. we all come from one man (and woman)

Racism is based on the idea that there are different “races” of people. There are black people, white people, Asians, Latinos, and so on. While we might use these words to describe people of different appearances, the truth is that we are all the same race, because we all come from the same place.

acts 17:25-27

And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 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. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

When God created Adam and Eve, He created them in the image of God. Isn’t it small-minded to think that God must be white or black or some other color? God is much bigger and more creative than that. And while Adam and Eve were probably a particular color (a medium shade of brown, perhaps?), they had within them all the DNA material to be the father and mother of children of all shades of skin.

genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

As you can see, God did not create different “races.” He created mankind, and that’s the only race that really exists.

d. judging by appearances

Think about this: How silly is it to treat people differently just because their skin is a different shade of brown than ours is?

Think about it. Do we treat others differently because of their hair color? What about their eye color? Do we treat tall people better than we treat shorter people? And yet, so many people treat people of a different skin tone differently.

john 7:24

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

1 samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The key here is that God doesn’t judge us based upon what we look like. And why should He? God is the one who created us to look the way we look! He is the one who gave us our hair color, our eye color, and our height. And God is the One who gave us our skin color!

God doesn’t judge us based upon our appearance, which He Himself gave us. Instead, He judges us based upon the choices we make in our hearts.

We should follow God’s example. Don’t judge others based upon what God made them look like. Treat them with love, based upon what benefits them!


e. we are all the same under God

Clearly, God made us each with different attributes so that no two people look exactly alike. God, in His beautiful creativity, made humans so that they could be born in all different shapes, sizes, and skin tones. That’s a good thing!

With six billion people in our world, isn’t it wonderful that we can tell each other apart?

But even though we all look different on the outside, God sees us all as one people. Take a look:

romans 10:12-13

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

God is God of all, and everyone, regardless of where they come from or what they look like, can be saved if they call on the name of the Lord.

And if we belong to Christ, we again see that God does not regard us as people of different “races,” but as members of one body! When we are in Christ, we can all become God’s chosen people!

colossians 3:11-15

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

galatians 3:26 - 4:7

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Being one in Christ may sound corny, but it is truly possible, as this next passage shows:

Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This passage beautifully illustrates how believers in Christ, whatever their backgrounds are or how different they are from each other, can have everything in common. This is possible because they all share Christ, who is everything.

Even in eternity, in Heaven, we see that all of God’s people, regardless of where they came from or what they looked like, will live together as one people!

revelation 7:9-10

The Great Multitude in White Robes

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”

What a thought! People from every nation, tribe, people and language will live together as one, praising God forever! There is no racism in Heaven!

revelation 14:6

The Three Angels

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people.

f. treatment of peoples from other cultures

So, how should we treat people who are a little bit different than us?

In the Bible, during Israel’s history, God gave instructions to His people about how to treat “aliens” and foreigners who lived among them. These aliens and foreigners likely had different cultures and may have looked different than the people of Israel. So, how should God’s people treat these aliens and foreigners?

exodus 22:21

“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

Don’t mistreat them and don’t oppress them. God reminds Israel that they themselves had been aliens when they lived in Egypt. And for us today, we should remember that we, if we belong to Jesus, are aliens in this world. Therefore, we should treat aliens and foreigners the way we want to be treated.

leviticus 19:33-34

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Here, we see that aliens and foreigners among us should be treated just as though they were native-born. While this means that we should show hospitality, kindness and love to people who “aren’t from here,” is also means we can and should expect foreigners among us to obey the same laws that we, as native-born people, are expected to obey. The point is, we aren’t really supposed to treat them any differently than we treat those who are “natives.”

In fact, we are actually commanded to reach out to people of all nations and cultures:

matthew 28:19-20

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.”

As you can see, Jesus commands His children to go and to make disciples of all nations. He shows no favoritism with this command. The goal here is not to make other people like us, but for all of us to become followers of Christ, as one family.

g. is God a “racist?

Some people might accuse God Himself of actually being a racist. Let’s talk about this for a moment. Let’s start by reading the following passage:

deuteronomy 7:1-12

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 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 children away from following me to serve other Gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But

those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction;

he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.

11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.

Okay, there’s a lot to digest here. Let’s break it down into smaller bites. In this passage, God is giving instructions to the Israelites about what to do when they eventually enter the Promised Land that God had promised them. But in verse 2 and 3, God gives them what might sound like a racist warning:

deuteronomy 7:2-3

...and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons...

Here, God has commanded Israel to totally destroy the seven nations who are currently living in the land. More than that, He commands that the Israelites should not marry anyone from those nations. Isn’t that racist?

Well, keep reading. What was God’s reason for commanding Israel to totally destroy those nations and not intermarry with them? Was it because of their skin color? Was it because they were from different cultures? Read on:

deuteronomy 7:4

...for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other Gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

As you can see, God’s reasoning is because He knows, in His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge that the peoples of those other nations will surely turn the Israelites away from Him to serve other Gods.

God knew that allowing anyone from those pagan nations to survive would cause Israel to stumble (which, of course, is exactly what later happened).

Reading further, we see that God had chosen the people of Israel to be His chosen people, apart from all others. Isn’t that racist?

deuteronomy 7:6

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

Why did God do that? Did He think that the Israelites were better or smarter or stronger than the other nations? Take a look:

deuteronomy 7:7-8

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Was God being racist? No. He was keeping His word to the people of Israel. Furthermore, God chose one people to be “His people” so that He could use them as an example to all people. He wanted to teach all peoples about their sinfulness and their inability to save themselves:

1 corinthians 10:11-12

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

The truth is, God loves all people!

john 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

That’s why, as we saw earlier, there is no difference before God between people of different backgrounds or “races.” God loves all of them.

2 peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Is God racist? Clearly not! He loves all people. Jesus showed this so clearly in His life on the earth. He reached out to the outcasts. He ate with “sinners.” He loved all people. Any why not? He created them.


h. practical examples

Let’s go back to our painting, as we briefly mentioned at the start. Imagine the brown color you used to get when all of your different colors of paints got mixed together. Indeed, brown is always the result when all other colors are mixed. But what if you could un-mix those colors back into their primary colors?

Don’t you see? They all share components of brown. In this sense, you might say that all colors are simply different variations on the basest of all colors, brown. Our skin tone is the very same way. Answers In Genesis (http://answersingenesis.org) has done some excellent work in making this point, and in debunking the logic of racism.

Similarly, imagine a bowl of plain M&Ms. You may see red, orange, yellow, brown and green candies, to be sure, but what do those different colored candy shells taste like? They all taste the same. And they all conceal the very same chocolate.

The logic of discriminating or hating another human being simply because he has a different color shell, or a different shade of brown, is clearly ridiculous, and God’s Word could not be more clear on the subject!

i. conclusion

So there you have it. We all come from the same beginning. We are all created and loved by God, and His invitation for salvation is equally available to all of us!

The Bible is clear that there is no room for hatred or favoritism toward other people based upon their appearance or their people group.

The way in which we treat other people should have nothing to do with those things. Instead, we should treat others according to what will be the most beneficial for them, drawing them closer to God with the goal of helping them to live in a life-saving relationship with God! Or, as God put it:

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.