Racism is the idea that race determines culture and that
some cultures, because oŁ their racial influence, are inferior or
superior to others. It is the notion that people of some races
are intrinsically inferior to others. This notion is then used to
justify the oppression and subjugation of the supposedly inferior
Of course, these definitions are not entirely adequate.
Races obviously have identifying characteristics; that's how we
know they are races. Culture is not determined exclusively by
race, however, but by an assortment of variables like climate,
religion, politics, tradition, history, ethnicity, tribe, clan,
leadership, geography, raw materials, and foods.
Race, in fact, may have very little to do with the
characteristics of a culture. Economic factors bear heavily on it
as do wars of conquest. Cultures are formed over time by a wide
range of influencing factors.
Closely related to racism is "ethnocentrism," what the
dictionary defines as "the belief in the inherent superiority of
one's own group and culture accompanied by a feeling of contempt
for other groups and cultures" (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged
Dictionary of the English Language).
In the same family of bigotries we find anti-Semitism and
tribalism. Anti-Semitism is hostility toward, or prejudice
against, Jews, simply because they are Jews. Tribalism is akin to
clannishness in which one's own group is favored over others, or
at the expense of others. In recent years, we have seen attempted
genocides in Africa based on tribal identity. Even people of the
same religion, but of different races or tribes, persecute each
Bigotry is as old as humanity. We naturally prefer our own
"kind" to another kind that we have difficulty identifying with.
Some years back, someone described loneliness as "a yearning
for kind." Kind here is not used in the biblical sense of "after
its kind." It means someone who is like us rather than unlike us.
This "likeness" can be based on race, language, ethnicity,
gender, politics, religion, or other commonalities. We are simply
more comfortable with people who view the world the way we view
it and who share our values. Even Christians like to hang out
with others of the same denomination.
All of this is simply the way people are. We tend to
discriminate for, not against, our own human type.
A point exists, however, where our natural preference for
commonality becomes harmful. That point is reached when a person
is denied rights or opportunities because he or she is racially
or ethnically inferior. At this point it is considered no longer
an issue of comfort with one's own kind; it is committing or
permitting harm to another human thought to be of an inferior
When people's race is used to justify their harm, we're
talking racism and bigotry, pure and simple. This is unscriptural
at every level. No follower of Christ can justify such racism on
biblical, or any other, grounds. Throughout history racism has
been one of the scourges of humanity. It has done enormous harm,
snuffing out the potential of millions of human beings. Let us,
therefore, consider the biblical view.
IMAGES AND ANCESTORS
Every human being on planet Earth, no matter his or her
color, has common denominators with every other human being. One
of them is listed in Genesis 1:26, 27:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our
likeness, and let them rule ..." So God created man in his
own image, in the image of God he created him; male and
female he created them.
Every human being - both men and women, regardless of
race-bears equally the image of God. In this sense, no one is
interior or superior. When it comes to intrinsic human worth, we
are all utterly equal. There is no such thing as a "master race."
All such notions are of the Devil, and they deserve to be
plowed back into the deepest, darkest recesses of hell.
A second thing we humans share is human ancestry. Eve was
"the mother of all living" (3:20), just as Adam was, in the human
sense, the father of all living. As Paul explained to the
Athenian philosophers, "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"
In ancient times God distributed the early population over
the planet - our common heritage. We were given dominion over
portions of the earth and over its myriad creatures.
Collectively, the human race has a responsibility of
stewardship for the planet. That responsibility includes how we
treat each other....
BEING A NEIGHBOR
Besides these scriptures, Jesus himself said something about
interracial relations. In answer to the question "Who is my
neighbor?" He shared the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke
A man was victimized by robbers and left in a ditch to die.
A priest and a Levi "passed by on the other side" rather than
risk helping him. But a Samaritan took pity on the man,
medicating and binding his wounds and providing for his long-term
After telling the story, Jesus asked, "Which of these three
do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of
A Torah scholar in the crowd replied correctly: "The one who
had mercy on him." Jesus then instructed, "Go and do likewise"
Being a neighbor, He said, involves more than physical
proximity and feeling. We are neighbors in the way Christ taught
when we meet the real needs of people regardless of race or
ethnicity, political or financial status.
Paul wrote, "We who are strong ought to bear with the
failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us
should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up" (Romans
15:1,2). Viewed on a global scale, Paul is saying what Jesus
said, that it is the job of every Christian who can to build up,
not tear down, those who are having difficulty - without regard
to race or status. When we view others of any race and in any
condition, we should first see in them the image of God.
A racist sees certain classes of people as inferior, as
less-than human, or even as untouchable. Throughout history a
pattern has existed of dehumanizing enemies or races and
ethnicities to justify persecuting them. In America black slaves
were once viewed as subhuman, and a similar, ugly phenomenon is
now occurring in Africa, Japan, and India. Though slavery is
illegal throughout the world, it is still practiced with impunity
in some regions. Slavery itself is dehumanizing, for it reduces
those created in God's image to mere chattel or commodities to be
bought and sold, sexually abused, tortured, or even murdered.
The global slave trade is one of the great scandals of the
twenty-first century. Those who wish to research this subject
further may read "Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global
Economy" by Kevin Bales. He writes, "Slavery is an obscenity. It
is not just stealing someone's labor; it is the theft of an
That sums it up. No human being has the right to steal
another human life. Bales adds:
"There are more slaves alive today than all the people
stolen from Africa in the time of the transatlantic slave trade.
Put another way, today's slave population is greater than the
population of Canada, and six times greater than the population
Though slavery officially ended in the United States on
January 1, 1863, some 10,000 people in this country are still
forced to work against their will under threat of violence.
Roughly half of these work in prostitution or the so-called sex
industry. Nearly one-third are domestic workers, and one in ten
labors in agriculture. Most of the victims of forced labor are
from minorities - Chinese, Mexicans, and Vietnamese - but 38
different countries are represented in the forced labor market.
Racism, with its attendant evils and abuses, continues to
flourish because people with low values and great power make
it happen. Racism, slavery, and "human trafficking" usually have
an economic element. Those who force others to labor in their
service without payment or personal freedom do not believe in the
biblical principle "The worker deserves his wages" (1 Timothy
5:18). Racially based enslavement has as its basis the sin of
covetousness. A close look at Exodus 20:17 may confirm this.
EQUALITY AND BEAUTY
Racism denies the equality God granted every human
individual created in His image. It often results in abuse,
enslavement, and murder. When people learn to see all races and
ethnicities as precise equals, it will be much more difficult to
demean and dehumanize them. The more we see our commonalities,
the less we'll focus on our differences.
When God looked upon the masterpiece of His creation
- humanity - He saw that it was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
The writer of Ecclesiastes acknowledged, "He has made
everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Every race
reflects the divine image. Each is uniquely beautiful. Each has
its own aesthetic, its own giftings, and its own potential. God
is not willing that any of us should ultimately perish.
Jesus died for the Arab, the Asian, the African, and the
white man. He did not sacrifice Himself for a tribe, a race, or
an ethnicity but for every human being.
Racism has NO place in the heart or life of any Christian.
It is our duty to lift man, not to denigrate him. We are all
neighbors on planet Earth. We all share God's' resources. We live
under His watchful gaze. How we treat each other matters to God.
Brian Knowles - a Christian free-lance writer
Published in "The Bible Advocate" (January/February 2006) - a
magazine of the Church of God, 7th Day, Denver, USA
THE BIBLE AND RACISM by Pastor William E.GiLmore
How we view and interact with each other in tumultuous times
is important to our relationship with the Lord, and racism is one
of today's "hot button' issues in that interaction. This issue
raises its head across the religious spectrum, demonstrated by
the fact that we think in terms of black churches and white
churches. While we may not hate or mistreat the other, the very
fact that such polarization exists indicates a problem. As a
child, I was taught all human beings are created equal, that God
loves everyone, and that I should show God's love to others.
However, the subtle message was that when it came to people
of color, we should not play with them, speak to them, or be
around them. They needed to stay in their neighborhood and we in
ours; attend their own school and we, ours; and have their own
churches and we, ours. As a ten-year-old, I tagged along on my
dad's summer sales route. A black gentleman remarked to Dad that
he had a fine son. Remembering my manners, I quickly replied,
"Thank you, sir!" Returning to the van, I received a hard lick to
my bottom, with the instruction that "We never say 'sir' to
Should we treat one person with love and godly respect,
while withholding it from another? Does God love one human soul
more than another? Does He show respect to one person and not
God wants us to be consistent in all we do. A double-minded
man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Hate all sin, not
just part of it. Show love to all people, not just a preferred
few. If we love those who love us and salute only our closest
brethren, we are equal with all sinners (Matthew 5:46-48).
God loved all races and nationalities, not just some of them. If
God loves them, we need to love them, too (John 3:16)!
Loving different races may be OK, but some draw a line at
fellowship or worship with them. But Peter said, "Of a truth I
perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34, KJV),
and Jesus taught that those who do the will of the Father in
heaven are our brethren (Matthew 5:4648). If Jesus could eat with
the basest sort - prostitutes, thieves, cheats - and Peter could
go to the Gentiles. who are we, black or white, to separate
ourselves from them?
As a pastor in the Deep South, I can truthfully testify that
coming together with others who are different from us brings
better worship and a deeper walk with God. The Lord has blessed
our congregation with black, white, Pakistani, and Indian saints
- all saints of the Most High God!
I urge you: Break down the artificial barriers that humanity
erects due to race, and see the Lord's blessing in ways you have
never seen beforel
Pastor William E. Gilmore Serves the Mt.Zion Apostolic Church,
a seventh-day congregation in Mobile, AL. USA
WWJD ("What would Jesus do?") is an important approach to major
personal or social issues, like race. This question can help
followers of Christ respond to the complex issues of inter-ethnic
and interracial relations here in America and in other parts of
Jesus was born of Hebrew ethnicity. Racially, He was a Jew from
the tribe of Judah. What would He do if He lived, as do many of
us, in a diverse culture with different nationalities, languages,
colors, races, and tribes all sharing the same homeland?
Matter of fact, thats exactly where Jesus lived!
First century Palestine was a melting pot of its own, the
crossroads of three continents. Persons of Jewish-Hebrew heritage
were the majority in and around Jerusalem, but significant
numbers of Greeks and Romans (mostly European), Samaritan
crossbreeds, Asians and Arabians, Libyans and Cyrenians
(African), Egyptians and Mesopotamians, Cretans and Canaamtes
traveled this land from lower Judea north to Galilee - or called
So let's see how Jesus responded to this mix of races and
nations, just from the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus rejected the traditional idea of Jewish superiority and
triumphalism (3:8). His inaugural sermon in Nazareth stressed
that God had chosen non-Israelites also as recipients of His
grace (4:25-27), a fact that led to His near-death at the hands
of a prejudiced and provincial hometown crowd.
Christ associated with and ministered to those who were either
hated or considered social misfits and outcasts: Lepers (5:72),
publicans (v.27), Roman soldiers (7:1ff), Gadarene madmen (8:26),
and Samaritans (9:52; 17:16).
Jesus spoke of some outside Israel's racial heritage as more
worthy of God's kingdom than were many of the local Jews (10:13,
In Jesus' parables, a despised stranger was the hero of one story
(10:30-37). In another, lowly outsiders became the ultimate
objects of God's grace (14:23,24).
In traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus deliberately passed through
Samaria - land of half-breeds (17:11) - instead of detouring
around it as His Jewish compatriots often did. One lone Samaritan
returned to thank God for cleansing (w.12-19).
Jesus dealt with all sorts of people in an even-handed way, as
even His enemies admitted: "You do not show personal favoritism
Think of this: Luke, the universal Gospel, says Jesus birth
happened during registration of "all the world" and heralded
"peace on earth." That blessed event brought lowly, local
shepherds to the same level as regal monarchs from the east. And
among His final words before departure to heaven, Christ assigned
His followers to take the gospel of repentance and remission of
sins "to all nations."
From "The Bible Advocate" - a Church of God, 7th Day, Denver,
USA, publication, January/February 2006