“Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand…But now, why doest thou judge thy brother? Or thou again, why doest thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God,” (Rom. 14:4, 10).
Webster defines “racism” as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Interestingly, the word in current usage has come to suggest an objective moral standard, and “inherent superiority” does not mean simply that one race may be better at something than another, but that one race is morally superior, inherently better than another. This is the deadly and racist thinking condemned by the Bible in such passages as those quoted above.
If you stop and think about it, it becomes obvious that racism runs against God’s very nature, for God is no respecter of persons. “…Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him,” (Acts 10:34-35). God does not assign moral worth or value to a person based upon their race, ethnicity or nationality. Rather, he respects those who “fear” him and “work righteousness,” regardless of which earthly nation they are from.
There is a fundamental fairness to God’s nature, which runs counter to man’s tendency to elevate or debase people for things over which they have no control. A person cannot take credit merely for being born, and certainly not for being born in a particular nation or race. Neither should a person be censured or devalued because of their race, for they had no choice or decision in the matter. To his own lord he standeth or falleth.
Have you ever been criticized or mocked because you had blonde hair? Have you been the subject of “blonde jokes?” How did they make you feel, especially as a child when you had no choice over what your hair color would be? Have you ever been treated cruelly because you were short? How did that make you feel, especially when you had no choice over what your physical stature would be? To make fun of or mistreat someone for something over which they have no control is the height of cruelty, unfairness, and ungodliness.
The Bible deals with racism directly in Gal. 2:11-21, where Paul rebuked Peter for discriminating against the Gentiles. Before certain “reputable” Jews came from Jerusalem, Peter was willing to associate freely with the Gentiles. But when these Jews came, Peter retreated and held the Gentiles at length. That is, he discriminated against them because of their race.
We learn from passages such as this that racism can infect even the best of people. The text says that “even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation,” (Gal. 2:13). That is a sad commentary on mankind, and a strong warning of how deadly this racist poison can be. It also teaches that those in the minority (in this case, Jews) can be afflicted with racism as well as those in the majority (here, Gentiles). Racism can be practiced by anyone.
Racism is a problem in our culture today, but I fear we are often looking in the wrong places for the solution. The true cure for such poisonous thinking involves a change of heart produced by the gospel of Jesus Christ. It involves a recognition that all people are God’s creatures, and that we have no right to despise any of them, particularly for things over which they have no control. The solution to racism is the gospel, including the “golden rule” which bids us to treat others as we ourselves would be treated, (Mt. 7:12). The gospel fundamentally requires that we love God and that we love our fellow man, (Mt. 22:34-40). We can’t do that as racists, “setting at nought” certain people as being morally less valuable than others. We can’t do it by being “respecters of persons.”
We must not see other people as objects, but as precious souls who will live forever, either in heaven or hell. We must see them as those for whom Christ died, shedding his life’s blood to provide the hope of eternal life. Whether their skin is dark or fair, their hair blonde or brown or red, they are members of the human family. And God bids them, of every nation, to fear him and work righteousness, and be saved!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.