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Q&A: Is Racism a Sin? Where Does Racism Come From?

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Is Racism a Sin? Where Does Racism Come From?

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Q: Is Racism a Sin?

Race: It’s a subject that has caused issues for millennia. From ancient Israel to modern-day America, and around the world, division among races has caused hurt and hate. While it is true that God told the ancient nation of Israel not to intermarry with other nations, notice the reason why: “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4 Deuteronomy 7:3-4 [3] Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take to your son. [4] For they will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy you suddenly.
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; compare 1 Kings 11:2 1 Kings 11:2Of the nations concerning which the LORD said to the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in to you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon joined to these in love.
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). The command has to do with the idea that other nations worshiped idols and not the true God. It had to do with how the other nations thought, and the negative influence they would have on those who do worship the true God, not the color of their skin.

A New Teaching

In the New Testament, we see a similar warning, to not think like other nations. For instance, Paul writes, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19 Ephesians 4:17-19 [17] This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you from now on walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, [18] Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: [19] Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
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). Again, Paul condemns the Gentile (non-Israelite) way of thinking, not their specific race.

In Acts 10, we see the story of Peter taking the gospel to Cornelius, a Roman soldier and Gentile. This caused quite a stir among the Jews of the day who were still of a mindset that God favored and loved only them. Peter broke that way of thinking down with a powerful statement: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (verses 34-35, NIV throughout).

Here we see in God’s Holy Word—the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
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)—that God does not play favorites among nations, and by extension, races. Paul spells this out very clearly: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
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).

What Does This Mean for You and Me?

Certainly, we can be thankful that God shows no partiality toward race or nation. But more than that, what does it say to us about how we should think? Is it okay for us to show bias for or against anyone because of their race or nationality?

It is clear in the pages of the Bible that God makes no distinction between races. As followers of Christ, we shouldn’t either. Jesus modeled a different attitude for us. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
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). Racism does not promote peace. It promotes division and hatred without cause. Later in the same chapter, Jesus goes on to say, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22 Matthew 5:22But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
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).

The Bible does not teach racism. The life that Jesus Christ modeled does not teach an attitude of hate or intolerance toward people. Instead, He taught an attitude of peace toward fellow man. Make no mistake: Racism is a sin. God is love (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
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, 16), and His expectation is that we live a life based on love and peace toward our fellow man!

Edited from the Bible Q&A “Is Racism A Sin?” at ucg.org .


Q: Where Does Racism Come From?

As racial violence remains a present evil in our world, have you ever wondered: where does racism come from?

Racist thought and racially motivated hatred are deeply rooted in ideology, or how people think about themselves and others. As defined by Merriam Webster, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Perhaps at no time in modern memory did the evil of racism manifest itself worse than in Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution.” After Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, Aryan racial superiority became German government ideology. Such racist thought culminated in the deaths of some six million Jews, not to mention other ethnic groups.

More recently, terms like “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing” have been used to describe the racially motivated slaughter of population segments considered inferior. This was the case in Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s and in other human tragedies since. Even in places where these mass killings are not currently taking place, there are still problems caused by racism. Today in America, racism explodes in violent street clashes in cities like Ferguson, Missouri, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

God shows us clearly in the Bible where racism comes from and why it continues to be a problem. Racism comes out of human nature, or the heart of man as it is without God’s influence. And the end of racism will only come from the purification of the heart of man.

The way we think on our own is much different from how God thinks (Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah 55:8-9 [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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), and when we begin to use our own way of thinking instead of God’s, we can quickly get into trouble. One simple test to figure out if our way of thinking is in line with God’s is to ask ourselves, “Does what I am about to do or say reflect the fruit of God’s spirit?” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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).

In the Bible, the “heart” is used to refer to the core of someone’s being, including thoughts and beliefs as well as feelings. One example is when Jesus Christ says, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19 Matthew 15:19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
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). Here, He summarizes the kind of thinking that can come from the heart if we are not careful to follow God’s will and way. Racism is an extreme wrong way of thinking when mankind tries to figure things out without God.

Racism does not come from a system of economics that supports slavery, such as in the days of the Roman Empire or in early American history. It does not originate from societal structures that support class distinctions. These things have helped racism continue on, but they are not where racism comes from. The Bible is clear: At the deepest level, the evil of racism comes out of the heart of man.

An attitude like racism was even addressed in the New Testament Church. The apostle James warns believers not to “hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1 James 2:1My brothers, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
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). The word “partiality” seems less serious than racism, but it means nearly the same thing. Partiality means showing favoritism—that is, thinking one person is better than another—due to social class, wealth, appearance or race.

If the believers were doing this, James asks them, “Have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4 James 2:4Are you not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
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). Scripture makes it clear that God does not show favoritism: “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11 Romans 2:11For there is no respect of persons with God.
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).

The Bible says, “God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27 Genesis 1:27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
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), which includes men and women of all races. Further, it says, God “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26 Acts 17:26And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
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).

If we treat a person with contempt for their race, religion, social status or any other reason, we have “become judges with evil thoughts.” Harboring such thoughts in the heart is to hate another person made in the image of God. Scripture says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15 1 John 3:15Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
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).

Such evil in a person’s heart—evil like racism—influences all attempts to justify his supposed superiority on his brother. According to God’s Word, this is a spirit of murder.

Racism has been and will continue to be a scourge on mankind. To eradicate it, this ingrained and evil way of thinking needs to be cleansed from man’s heart. Thanks to God and His mercies, there is such a plan in the works. To anyone who draws near to God in true repentance and cleanses himself from such evil, God will draw near to him and purify his heart (James 4:8 James 4:8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
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).

When God brings His Kingdom to earth, racism and all evil in man’s heart will be exposed globally. God will show mankind a better way: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Hebrews 10:16 Hebrews 10:16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
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). God will begin to change the heart of man and cleanse the evil that comes from it, thus ending the scourge of racism forever. CC

Edited from the Bible Q&A “Where Does Racism Come From?” at ucg.org.