February 03, 2015

The Problem of Racism

by Charles Burge

Incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City have refocused our attention on the problem of racism here in the U.S.

This is, of course, not a new topic in American history. Most Americans can cite the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War as being key events dealing with race in America. Dig a bit deeper, and discussions of the Watts riots, Rodney King, Japanese internment during World War II and other examples come up.

You may be old enough to remember segregated public swimming pools and restrooms. Perhaps you were affected by public school busing. You might have your own story to tell how you have been neglected, ridiculed or abused because of your skin color.

These are painful recollections of an America most of us would as soon forget.

Racism is not uniquely American or a fairly recent development. A simple consideration of history and culture shows this sin crosses borders and time. For example:

  • The white Aryanism that drove Adolph Hitler and the Nazis
  • Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge persecuted ethnic Chinese
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the founding of the nation of Israel

In my own family, we have a mix of nationalities and experiences that lend themselves to conversations about race and nationality, so we tend to pay close attention to incidents of this type. As Christians, we look for advice and answers in the Bible.

Actually the Bible shows us more of the same. From the ethnic arrogance of Israel that was confronted by the prophets to the reluctance of Christ´s apostles to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, redemptive history is riddled with the sin of racism.

Let´s face it: the problem of racism is a key issue for both Christians and the rest of the world.

The Solution to Racism

Scripture shows that we are all related. We all share the same human mother and father and are therefore ancestors by blood.[i] We also are all made in God´s image or after his likeness, [ii] with characteristics unique to the rest of creation.

These are wonderful truths to celebrate. There is, however, more to the story.

Since we are of one race – the human race or what the Bible calls Adam´s race – we also share Adam´s story. This includes the broken condition into which both Adam and Eve fell when they rebelled against our Creator.[iii] When Adam and Eve rebelled, it was attributed to us – in a real sense, we rebelled along with them. They, as our representatives, are responsible: we, as their progeny, share their penalty, which is sin and death[iv].

The good news is that God has addressed the issue of sin — including racism — in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus succeeded where Adam failed, and Jesus succeeds where we fail. By faith, we place confidence in Jesus as our true and final representative and have peace with God[v] and our fellow human beings. We can overcome sin and death through Jesus Christ,[vi] and someday we will be free of both.[vii]

The Bible teaches quite clearly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings an end to interracial squabbling.[viii] Our common humanity supersedes our national and ethnic distinctions. Delusions of cultural superiority have no place in Christ´s kingdom. We are one entity in Christ.[ix]

But because of our natural condition, which the Bible calls fallen or sinful, we still experience racial strife, even within the church. This is bondage from which the Gospel sets us free.[x]

One day the church, which crosses every ethnic line and cultural barrier, will meet before God in eternity and worship him together in one glorious voice.[xi]

In fact, it is happening right this very minute.

God is reconciling the world – right now

Every week Christian Aid Mission receives dozens of reports of God´s redeeming love rescuing individuals, families, and towns. These reports contain horrific details of racism and attempted genocide but also illustrations of incredible bravery and acts of courage.

One of the most despised ethnic minorities on earth, the Rohingya people have been denied citizenship by multiple countries. Many subsist by scavenging in garbage dumps. Indigenous ministries supported by Christian Aid Mission are working among this group and leading many to Christ.

We publish a portion of these stories on-line and through our Mission Insider email update, carefully choosing which details to share and yet illustrate the fact that God is reconciling the world to himself.[xii] Through all of them, people from assorted cultures and geographic locations are finding commonality and meaning in the Gospel.

If you would like to receive our free Mission Insider weekly email update, click here to sign up.

Nothing will prevent God from bringing humans of every skin color and culture together in Christ. It is a promise which He himself has guaranteed.[xiii] When will it reach completion? God alone knows, but it could be sooner than we think. Nevertheless, we should be busy about our Father´s business.

One of the books I´m currently juggling is helping me make sense of the problem of racism. In it, I found this helpful:

God has spoken. And he has acted. He has entered our world in the person of his Son. His word, his action, and his incarnation are the end of ethnic arrogance for those who embrace him as the Treasure of their lives.

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Thank you for your interest in helping those in persecuted, impoverished and unreached areas understand and embrace the Treasure which can be theirs in Jesus Christ.

  • [i] Genesis 3:20, Acts 17:26
  • [ii] Genesis 1:27, James 3:9
  • [iii] Romans 5:12-21
  • [iv] Romans 3:10, 23
  • [v] Romans 5:1
  • [vi] Romans 8
  • [vii] Revelation 21-22
  • [viii] Ephesians 2:11-22, The Epistle to the Galatians
  • [ix] 1 Corinthians 12
  • [x] Galatians 5:1
  • [xi] Revelation 7:9-10
  • [xii] 2 Corinthians 5:19
  • [xiii] Matthew 24:14
  • [xiv] John Piper, Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian (Crossway Books, 2011), page 13.