Someone recently asked me to construct a theology of racial inclusion based on the Bible. This is what I came up with…
“The Bible says plain as day that white people are chosen by God… It’s absolutely of the devil to say otherwise… Haven’t you been listening to the preacher? Blacks are just not on the same level when it comes to God.” These comments occasionally filled my brain when I was child. Thankfully, God saved me. I embraced a spirit of resistance from a very young age.
“How can Christians be so racist?” This is one of the most pivotal questions facing the modern church. The Bible is not silent on this subject…on the contrary. The Bible speaks loud and clear.
The Image of God
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God…God created them… Genesis 1:27
Humanity is made in God’s image. Each person is the great climax of God’s creation. There is no differentiation. We are all made in the Image of God. The importance of this statement cannot be overstated. The one thing that makes humanity distinct from all other creatures is the nature of its’ relationship with God. Humanity has a limitless capacity for fellowship and communion with God. While this is certainly the case with regard to race, it is also true of any other identity characteristic for that matter. This capacity is given to all humanity. There is absolutely no partiality or differentiation with God. Humanity…all of humanity…is the image of God.
The Argument For Destruction of the Image (and Its Unifying Quality) Based On Sin
Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin. Rom 5:12
No one does good, not even one. Rom 3:12
Many have attempted to make the argument that the image of God was totally destroyed in Eden and has presented itself, through restoration, more fully in some people than others. Those who make such arguments provide cover for racism and other types of violence. God cannot be destroyed…and God was made to be in us. To reject another is to reject God. How could anyone claim to love God and be a racist? It’s not possible. The Image of God is alive and well in all of us. The only thing that is being destroyed is the irrational hate that we have toward each other. The Bible makes it very plain.
As early as Genesis 9:6, after sin had entered the world and was at its height before the flood, Noah is told that murder is wrong because all men are made in God’s image. This shows that even the vilest of humans have tremendous value before God. Paul asserts that all humans have the responsibility component of the image of God in two direct verses in Romans. Romans 1:20 that all men stand equally before God without excuse. Paul goes on to state in Romans 2:14-15 states: “Even the Gentiles, who have not the law, have the law written on their hearts.” These verses combined with the weight of verses of the collective verses on this subject make it very hard to argue that the image of God was completely destroyed in anyone, much less in a particular race. There is undoubtedly reason for unity around the collective image of God even before Christ comes into the mix.
Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. Colossians 1:15
God’s purpose in the union with Christ makes us children of God so that we might be conformed to the image of His Son. Romans 8:29
One puts on the new self, through Christ, which is in the process of being made new in the likeness of our creator. Colossians 3:10
Even if one tries to argue that the image of God and its unifying qualities were destroyed at the fall, Christ is the trump card. There is no way to get around scripture after scripture that humans are all united in the person of Christ/God. When God saves us, we are fully bound to God and we take on God’s qualities. This binding allows God to see us through the prism of Jesus/love. The Bible gives no evidence that race is seen through the prism of Jesus. It is ludicrous to say otherwise. Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God and therefore the perfection of His image. If we are bound to the likeness of Christ/God then there is no argument of differentiation based on race available. To deny the fullness of God in anyone who is bound to God is not only wrong…it is heretical.
All People Are ‘Of One’
And he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having appointed their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitations. Acts 17:26
There are two main interpretations of what ‘of one’ means in this passage. The first is that ‘of one’ speaks of the fact that all peoples and nations are from one God. The second interprets ‘of one’ to mean that all are originated from one Adam. Regardless of which interpretation one takes, there is still a uniting force in this verse for all of humanity. This verse speaks of the fact that all people are united based on the fact that they are all ‘of one.’ Truly people who are of one creation and one human family should seek to worship together. Every time we worship in a racially diverse setting we are proclaiming the glory of the oneness of God’s image connecting all of humanity together…and each time we don’t…we don’t.
God Is No Respector of Persons
And Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no repecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him. Acts 10:34
This statement is truly one of the more significant revelations in all of scripture concerning God’s relationship to man. God does not look on or judge humanity by the color of their skin or their general external conditions…God looks at the heart. God’s relationship to humanity is absolutely fair and without prejudice. Since God expects God’s children to be like God, we should never be respecters of persons. We should ever be impartial…even loving. There is no question that the early church got it. The Gospel was taken to all nations…to the ends of the earth. We must be inclusive so that we can have the ability to proclaim an inclusive Christ/God. If we are racially exclusive we are blasphemers of the God of love.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
If anyone thirst let him come to me and drink. John 7:37
Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Acts 2:21
…the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. Romans 1:16
…stop trying to maintain your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ…along with acts of partiality to certain ones… James 2:1
The gospel of Jesus Christ, based on the New Testament, is clearly available to all people. There is inclusive language used over and over again. God’s love is universally effective. Jesus tells anyone that will listen that God has come so that the thirsty might have drink. The word ‘anyone’ is of the utmost inclusivity. We are commanded by God to offer and proclaim the gospel in like manner, to ‘anyone’ and ‘all nations.’ Luke tells us in Acts that whoever calls on the name of God will be saved. Faith is the common bond that Paul says should make up our churches…not race. Faith should be held in common with no partiality towards any individual. We must be welcoming and inclusive so as to unite the world. James tells us that it is incredibly sinful to say that you have faith and are partial/racist to anyone. These scriptures cannot be read any other way…racism…no matter how big or small…is unbelievably evil.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39
Would anyone who loved their self be exclusive of their self? It doesn’t make sense. To not be inclusive is to violate one of the basic rules of morality that faith/ethics is based around. We cannot love God and hate the divine image in others. To deny our neighbor is to deny Christ/God. We must love our neighbor and invite them to dwell with us if we are truly to love Christ/God and invite God to dwell with us. Love of Christ/God is directly connected to our love of neighbor. You cannot separate the two. To believe anything less than this bold proclamation of love and inclusion is to let evil win the battle for your soul. We exhibit that we love our neighbors through racial diversity. In fact, I don’t know that God is present in spaces that are not diverse. We want people to know that we love every type of neighbor without exception…this is who God is.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
These words are some of the most powerful in all of scripture. We cannot be one and be exclusive. We are the body of Christ/God and a house divided against its’ self cannot stand. We cannot be effective in this world if we are not effective in our own hearts. We must be God/love incarnate. Racial diversity provides a clear representation of the oneness of God. Unity and inclusivity is the highest priority of the church.
God protect us from ourselves.