A Christian Perspective on Racism

America is a land of racial conflict. The smoldering feelings of resentment and anger occasionally burst into flaming confrontations like those that devastated Baltimore and Ferguson, and continue to flare up across the nation. All people groups insist that they are entitled, and many feel that they are being mistreated.

Racism permeates our society. How many times have you heard disparaging remarks based solely on a person’s ethnicity? We are all born selfish and cannot fix ourselves. Only as we recognize that we are “all one in Christ Jesus” can healing begin (Galatians 3:28). Rather than stooping to sling mud, or slumping in the marshes of despair, we must find a way to bring God’s redemptive healing to the lives we touch.

What about Jesus?

As followers of Jesus, how will we respond? Did Jesus show us how to respond to racial problems in the twenty-first century? Keep in mind that this is a man who did the unexpected. He overturned the established order in the temple courtyard (Matthew 21:12,13). He responded in ways that seem politically incorrect to us (Matthew 15:21-28). If He were alive today most of us would deem his actions eccentric, to put it mildly.

He was not concerned with fitting into the correct political mold. Jesus’ concern was to do the will of God, and to use His life effectively. We can see that several underlying principles apply to all of Jesus’ interactions with people.

Jesus helped those who really needed help

He did not expend energy trying to help those who were not willing to recognize their need. If He gave them anything, it was usually a short sentence or two that attempted to jar them to their senses. The case of the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful because he could not give up his possessions is a good example. Jesus simply says, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).

Jesus gave people what they needed

The example above illustrates this. His many miracles of healing and forgiveness of sins illustrate this. His stern rebukes and destroying of the money changer’s tables illustrate this. How will you, living in a broken society, give all people what they need? Remember, what people want and what they need are often miles apart. Only as we are in tune with the Spirit of Jesus will we be wise to know what each situation calls for.

Jesus exposed hypocrisy

Wherever Jesus experienced deceit and false pretenses in people—rich, poor, black, white, and every other variation possible—he did not allow falsehood to masquerade as truth. In each situation He cut to the heart of things with keen insight and obvious love.

In all of His dealings with those who were rejected or underprivileged, Jesus showed incredible sensitivity and compassion. Everyone He helped knew that they were loved. If we understand His love, we will treat others with the same love.

True love calls for wisdom. It does not follow a set formula, but allows underlying principles to provide inspiration for each situation that it meets. A follower of Jesus, motivated by true love, will approach the problem of racism with the practical steps listed below (though this is certainly not an exhaustive list).

1. Acknowledge continued racial injustice

This is pretty basic, and something which should be accepted by all. Sadly, we all know many people who are decidedly racist. We allow racism to prosper when we treat those with different pigmentation as somehow lesser (or better) than ourselves. We live in a twisted world where some people fear for their lives because they are the wrong color.

2. Approach solutions thoughtfully

Jesus’ way is not the way of force or legislation. We need not waste our efforts trying to legislate equality. Instead we should pour our efforts into understanding that God is color-blind and we can be too. Love alone will bring about the kind of heart change that can end racial division.

That does not mean we loudly declare that all communities are the same, regardless of ethnicity. Different people have different ways of doing things. We must celebrate the differences worth keeping and challenge each other to a higher standard.

3. Bring healing instead of hurt

Our world is full of hurts, wars, poverty, death, and hatred. How can we as God’s image bearers hurt others who also bear His image? All humanity is equal in His eyes. Wherever you find yourself, bring healing. No task is too small, no person unimportant if our deeds are bringing redemption in some way.

Observations from real life

One way to realize that all people have equal value is to befriend people of other ethnicities. When friends live life together, they cease to think in categories of color, but each one is valued for his or her individual character. Regardless of ethnicity, some friends are shy, some outgoing. A few seem to excel at everything they turn their hand to, while others have trouble making anything succeed.

Although each one has a unique personality, all people are created in the image of God. If we are willing to approach souls everywhere as though they have tremendous value, we are doing what we ought to do in order to make the world a place where God’s redemption is at work.

The Church’s response

In many ways the Church’s response should be the same as that of the individual, yet she needs to go beyond that. Her unity should stand as a testament and invitation to the rest of the world. It is easy to bemoan the status of the worldwide church, but as members of His Church our appropriate response is to be concerned with the ways in which we can personally bring redemption to the world.

This is not a social gospel. As Christ’s children, we further His redemptive work in every way we can. We embrace the church to make it as it ought to be, a sanctuary of healing for all who will turn themselves to Jesus and give their allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven.

All Scripture used from the English Standard Version (ESV).

“Daniel Beachy” Daniel Yutzy lives near Huntsville Arkansas, where he devotes significant time to his fiancé, construction, and music. He teaches music at a local church school, conducts a church choir, and is as passionate about learning as he is about teaching. In his spare time he enjoys relaxing with good friends and eating food. Alternately, a well written biography, novel, or history will keep him contented for hours. He also loves a good rain and seeing other corners of this marvelous world we live in.

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