Is God Racist?
If not, then why do we see so many Christians looking first to sinful men/women for the solution to this sin problem, before or instead of looking to God who is without sin?
First, I want to be as crystal clear as possible - racism is a wretched, disgusting sin. I have seen it and heard it with my own eyes and ears being inflicted upon those in my life or in close proximity to me. Hearing or seeing racist actions makes my heart mourn for something I will never comprehend fully myself in the way many minorities have and do. I am not here to refute whether there are racist people permeating both in America and the rest of the world. These are real issues. There are both too many citizens and police officers that are killed unlawfully or interacted with based upon the constructs of incorrect biases towards them. There is blatant discrimination around us daily. I, myself, have been on the receiving end of both bigotry and discrimination because I am a woman in the workplace. These are all clearly both problems and sins. There are many other issues of oppression and bigotry in both our country and the rest of the world that truly do require political solutions. I don't come with all the answers from that perspective, though. Rather, I want to bring all of us back to the most important and only solution to all sin in the world. I'm going to do this by first touching on who God is in light of what racism is in order to understand that as we approach any sin or evil, we must keep at the forefront that Jesus alone is the answer to the fallen nature of the world in which we live.
The term racism or racist is not found explicitly in the Bible. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary records the first utterance of the word racism as being from a man, Richard Henry Pratt in 1902. This of course is not to say that racism didn't exist prior to its utterance, but the actual use of the term and definition was constructed by humans who are they themselves sinful. Because racism is not explicitly lined out in the Bible due to its man-made framework, we are going to briefly look at some of the incorrect descriptions of God as being discriminatory, genocidal, and changing in relation to who He actually is as loving, just, immutable, and merciful. Furthermore, we will look at the characteristics of Jesus (who is God in the flesh) seen through His interactions with those considered 'less than" in order to concisely touch on the true nature of God even in a world where racism exists.
In my natural apologetics tendencies, I will also discuss throughout one of the incorrect approaches I see pastors and church leaders taking today with regard to this particular issue; because how we encourage and lift up any group of people should not be framed by our ability to put down another. Our man-made solutions alone are not the ultimate answer to racism. Rather, God's solution for evil is in fact the solution for all sin on earth (which includes racism), and that is where we must first look before we move onto political or societal answers.
Our approach to both racism and all sin should be formed out of a proper Christian worldview and understanding of God Himself and His word. If we lay the teachings of the Bible aside as we try and conjure up what we deem as necessary to combat such evil, more often than not, our attempts will be without true God-honoring approaches. I am not aiming to say I have all the answers, but rather I will attempt to point us back towards God's word first before we attempt to tackle earthly problems with earthly finite thoughts.
"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
Maybe this post already feels insensitive or careless with regard to the emotions of fellow image-bearers of God. I would like to reiterate that that is not my heart. Similar to my post a few weeks ago about Job and his friends, I truly believe we are to approach those hurting around us not like the quick to speak friends of Job. In fact, the Bible tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak and get angry (James 1:19). So, listening and reading are what I've been doing. I aim to bear the burdens of those around me as we as Christians are called to, but I would be incredibly remiss to ignore the misguided or altogether incorrect approaches to these particular issues I see around us today in churches. I will never claim to be an expert on all things, but I do always aim to know and write on how the Bible instructs us to approach the world around us. Therefore, that is what I will propose to do.
So, Is God Racist?
To many of you, I'm sure the answer to this question feels painfully obvious. Although we as Christians would presumptively agree that God is not in fact racist, I hear many pastors candidly claiming cultural answers for what are at their root sin and heart issues. If we can agree upon the fact that God is never racist, why then would we first look at the fallen men and women around us for answers instead to Him who alone is perfect and holy? Maybe you aren't quite at a place where you can explain fully why God isn't racist or why He alone offers the ultimate answer for the evil in this world. You aren't alone, as one of the common objections to a belief in God is the immorality of man. For that, I want us to dive deeper into who God is as our Heavenly Father and also in the flesh seen through Jesus, His perfect Son.
First, we will go to the beginning of our Bibles in the book of Genesis. I have commonly heard both atheists and progressive Christians claim that the God of the Old Testament is not the same God of the New Testament; as if to say God prior to Jesus was angry and wrathful but God after Jesus is loving and accepting of all. A belief like this points towards an ultimate belief that the immutable God of the Bible is in fact subject to change. If this were true, it would place quite a predicament on our ability to trust Him who knows all things. Furthermore, I've heard God described as genocidal and discriminatory due to the wars, killings, and speaking of Israel as His chosen people in the Old Testament. If God is in fact genocidal in nature, it would then presume that He is driven by racial hatred. In Genesis 12:3 though, it states that all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham. The promise of Jesus the Messiah and answer for the evil in the world was not just for Israel, but for "all the families of the earth"; for those who place their faith in Christ, Paul says it like this is in the New Testament that, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) God's plan for unity through Christ our King and Savior was not a new construct within the New Testament but in fact His plan from the beginning.
If God's solution to the evil and sin in this world are not only for one group of people, we can draw the conclusion that His desire to save sinful people is not based upon any exclusive qualities in certain groups.
As it relates to the killing of people in the Old Testament, the word often used for this destruction of life is the Hebrew word haram or ban. While this word means to wipe out, it is simultaneously used in the context with the words meaning to drive out the evil among both the Israelites (actually its predominantly used for them) and also those like the Canaanites who were outside the kingdom of Israel.
Amy Orr-Ewing puts it like this, "The language at play is different in the driving out and wiping out words and phrases, yet we see them used simultaneously. One would seem to exclude the other and yet they are both used together. In other words, the terminology of the haram, “every living thing destroyed” is a catch-all phrase, a rhetorical phrase, and not a literal one. It is an idiom of language, and the people of the Near East culture understood this not as God being genocidal but perfectly driving out the evil that was among Israel and all other nations." While there are many stories of death and war in the Old Testament, it is not as a result of God being genocidal but rather His perfect holiness driving out the wretched evil in the world. Since we see the driving out of evil both in Israel and other tribes and people groups, we can infer that God's plan to conquer evil wasn't and isn't geared towards any one group. Rather, His plan of redeeming His creation which rebelled against Him and brought sin and evil into the world was out of His rich mercy and great love for His creation, (Ephesians 2:4) and ultimately to bring glory to He who alone is worthy.
You might be asking, why is all of this important and what does it have to do with God not being racist? First, it helps us to see that the God of the Old Testament is in fact the same loving and merciful God in the New Testament as His plan for man's sin problem and His wrath in accordance with our evil was unchanging. Even more, it helps us to refute that God's wrath could be based upon what groups of people look like. Instead, we can understand that His wrath was and is as a result of the inherent evil and sin in mankind, and His mercy in response to that is seen in Jesus both at the beginning of the Bible (Genesis 3:15), throughout all of the Old Testament, and then in the entirety of the New Testament. If we see that God is not racially driven in His driving out of evil throughout the totality of the Old Testament, we can look at Jesus in the same way within the New Testament as He is God in the flesh.
In my article titled, "Why is Jesus Worth Defending?," I unpacked 21 reasons from the 21 chapters in the book of John as to why Jesus is always worth defending. Within those same chapters and among many others, we can come to see that Christ (who is God in the flesh) alone is the perfect example of how to love our enemies, friends, and neighbors no matter who they are and what they look like. He rebuked those who considered themselves religiously elite, touched the diseased, dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, and revealed His risen self first to a woman. That's an important fact as it relates to both the trustworthiness of the Bible and seeing Jesus as the ultimate answer to this particular sin of racism or prejudice.
In the time for which Jesus was on earth, women were considered to be second-class citizens. Specifically, in the Gospel of Luke, we see how Jesus interacted with women was incredibly countercultural for the time. Even before Jesus exited His mother's womb, He was being prophesied over by Mary, His mother, and Elizabeth, Mary's cousin (Luke 1:39-56). Throughout Jesus' ministry, He continually laced women into both His healings, followers, and displays of His glory.
As we see in John 20:11-18, the risen Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene. This fact could easily be overlooked without understanding the culture at the time. If the Christian Bible wanted to retain any believability at the time, a woman is not whom Jesus would have revealed His risen self to, and yet He did. This fact not only points towards the disciples retaining the truth of what actually happened but says much of Christ's character as well. In a moment where He could have revealed His glory to any prominent character in the Bible, Jesus chose a woman; someone who was considered to be a second-class citizen and less than at the time.
So, what does all of this say about both the character of God and Jesus in a time where many are talking about the social definition of racism? Does it say that God chooses one group of people over the other in order to love another more? Does it imply that God's character wants to cast out evil in only one group of people in order to raise another up? I would argue that no is the correct answer to both of those questions. Racism entered into the world not as a result of who God is. It entered, along with all other sins, the moment Adam and Even made the decision to rebel against God's perfect and holy self. Racism is not a reflection of God but rather a reflection of the sin in which plagues the world because of the immorality of man. So I bring us back to this point again.
If God is not and never has been racist or discriminatory, then why do we see so many Christians looking first to sinful men/women for the solution to this sin problem, before or instead of looking to God who is Himself without sin?
According to the Bible, we are all the human race, but we have different tribes. It is not to say any of those tribes are greater than the other because as Romans 3:23 points out, we are all equal due to the fact "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Again, this is not said to negate that true racism, hatred, and bigotry plagues much of the world. Rather, it is to point all of us back to where such evil stems from - the fallenness and sin of mankind and furthermore to the solution God had for it from the beginning of creation: Jesus.
Am I saying that we are to just shout "Jesus is the cure" a couple of times in the face of the hatred found on both sides of the issue and call it good? Not entirely. I am implying, though, that the cure for heart issues (like racism and hatred seen in some on each side of this problem) is seeing all of our sins rightly in the glory of who Jesus is. This is not something we can do on our own, and only God can reveal His glory to an unbeliever, but we as believers in Jesus have a specific role to play in speaking and living out Kingdom hope (Jesus) in relation to all evil in the world. If our first step in the face of any sin issue is to run to the constructs of society before the infallible, inerrant word of God, I would boldly encourage us to flip the order of those around.
We uncovered at least briefly that God both as our Heavenly Father and Savior King (Jesus) is not racially driven in His plan of redemption for the evil which is throughout this world. Therefore, our attempts at bringing restoration to the sin of racism should not first be approached by looking more like the world than those who are Kingdom-minded. This is not to say that all who call for political and societal reform are negating the uttermost importance of heart changes through Jesus alone. Like I said prior, much of our earthly issues call for political decisions. I just caution us to continually submit all of our ever-changing culturally based ideas to the ultimate and unchanging authority of God's word.
In a sermon by Voddie Baucham, he preaches on the influences of cultural marxism in the modern church. Similarly to when he preached it, I hear much of these influences in the addresses given from pastors all throughout America today. In the sermon, he addresses the deep need for Christians to not look at others as being either racist or cultural Marxists or on the right side of the issue or the wrong side of the issue. If we do that, he says, "it has the potential to move us away from addressing individuals, their pain, and their brokenness." As he continues on, he addresses the fact that how we approach both the sin of racism and that of the like does not have to be based upon either just system [government/society] changes or individual changes. It does not have to be either-or. There does not need to come a time where we as Christians have to choose between advocating for laws to change in light of sins (racism, abortion, etc), Voddie says, over proclaiming the gospel with a view toward changing the heart of the sinner; because ultimately how we approach both of those things should reflect our utmost servitude to God alone. Although it does not have to be either-or, how we approach both the system and sinner should always be with the aim to glorify God and His word over men; helping others to see that at the heart of both racism and hatred is sin, and the only solution for sin is Jesus our Savior King.
So as I aim to close by giving you both direction and clarity on my reason for even proposing such a crazy question as, "Is God Racist?", I will yet again ask all of us the question that if God is not in fact ever discriminatory or racist, why do we see so many Christians looking first to sinful men/women for the solution to this sin problem, before or instead of looking to God who is without sin? I pray we all seek first the kingdom of God not just in the face of oppression, hatred, or racism but in all things seeing He alone can make dead people into transformed, made new, and alive in Christ. He alone offers the solution to evil in this world, and He alone is where we need to draw all of our hope from for the sin around us and in us. We don't do this by conforming to the world, but rather by being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2)
So I leave us with instructions from Paul that serve both in the time we reside in now and all time before and after God has us on earth. "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)
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