Racism: It's Deeper Than the Color of Our Skin
When I throw the word “racist” on the table, what comes to mind? Is it an image like men in white hoods or burning crosses? Maybe it’s a flag or a word or joke you’ve heard. Maybe it’s someone you know or the painful memory of something you’ve experienced (or are experiencing still).
When I asked my thirteen-year-old son what he thinks of when I say the word “racist,” he answered with a definition: “A white person who is biased against minority groups.” His response was intellectual, not emotional. This surprised me a little bit, but it shouldn’t have. You see, my children and I have the luxury of thinking of racism in abstract because we’ve grown up in an environment in which our skin color has either been a non-issue or an advantage.
We have a different story, a different slice of American heritage than our African-American brothers and sisters. Our family members weren’t bought and sold like property here. They were never told they couldn’t eat in the same restaurant or sit in the same part of the bus as another group of people. They were never stripped of opportunity or dignity or their legal status as human beings. My ancestors were born into the people group of power-holders in America. I wonder if the same is true for you.
The topic of racism is a difficult one, but I’m thankful that you have been asking for help on this issue. I’m glad that you want to think biblically about it. I respect that. I’m proud of you for that.
I can’t offer you an informed minority perspective, but I can offer you a biblical one. If we’re going to think biblically about the issue of racism, we’re going to have to go deeper than your experience or mine. We’re going to have to go deeper than American history and back further than European imperialism and colonialism. The issue of racism is really an issue of the corruption of justice, and to find out where that went wrong, we’re going to have to go all the way back to Genesis 3. (If you have a few extra minutes, I’d love for you to read Genesis 3 and refresh your memory.)
Where It All Went Wrong
The Bible teaches us that justice—the quality of being just, right, and equitable—was corrupted in the Garden of Eden when in an effort to become like God, our ancestors ripped themselves apart from Him instead. This ripping apart, this disconnection from God, created a deformity in the deepest part of us, and darkness filled the human heart. Theologians call this seismic shift in the history of mankind “the Fall.”
Romans 8:19–20 says that creation was “subjected to futility” through Adam’s act of disobedience. All of the violence and injustice we see in the world, the suspicion, distrust, hatred, cruelty, oppression and war, every bit of it grows out of that spiritual birth defect we all share.
Racism is one of the results of the Fall; it comes from our broken and fallen nature. Racism is bigger than one person’s racial prejudice toward another person, though it certainly includes that. Racism is also a political, social, and economic system built on the belief that one race is superior to another—a belief completely contrary to the teachings of Scripture that say man is made in the image of God and that God shows no partiality. There are many wonderful things about the founding of our nation, but during that historical time, slavery was a part of everyday American life. The ramifications of that still exist today.
Making Sense of It All
A biblical worldview is so helpful, because it helps us make sense of why the world looks like it does, of why we keep making colossal disasters of things over and over and over, of why we never seem to learn from history, of why there’s such strife between people all over the globe. The Bible tells us that we need more than a better political system.
We need a Savior.
He doesn’t look like us in our fallen state. He looks like us in our perfected state. He is what we couldn’t be. He came to undo all the wrong in the world. He is the One who unites us with our perfectly just God.
What does the Bible tell us about our God who is calling us to Himself, offering Himself to us through Christ?
The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he (Deut. 32:4).
For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off (Ps. 37:28).
(Also check out Deuteronomy 10:18, Psalm 9:7, and Psalm 97:2).
The solution to the problem of racism isn’t social justice movements or political activism, though these are absolutely important! The solution to the problem of racism and every social injustice is the reuniting of individual hearts to their Creator through Jesus Christ.
The solution to the problem of racism and every social injustice is the reuniting of individual hearts to their Creator through Jesus Christ.
When Christ makes our hearts new and brings us back to God through the finished work of the cross, only then can we begin to love like Christ, to think like Christ, to lay down our lives for one another like Christ.
Through His death on the cross and His resurrection, Jesus undid the work of the Fall (Rom. 5:17).
My prayer is that when we face the harsh realities of sin in the world and in our own hearts—realities like racism—we wouldn’t run and hide from God like Adam and Eve did. My prayer is that we would run straight into the arms of God and ask Him to rescue us from ourselves and to fix this mess we’ve made of things. My prayer is that through faith in Christ, we will be united with the God of righteousness and justice and become His hands and feet in this broken world, working in the ways He calls us individually to make the wrong things right. May we love others with the love that only Christ can give.
By Jennifer Case Cortez
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