Race relations are a hot-button topic. Some still hang on the bigoted caste and status systems that plagued provincial China and Medieval Europe; others find their bias based in the pseudo-science of evolutionary theory (once very popular in Nazi Germany) that quantifies human value by such anomalies as skin color, nose size or the slant of one’s eyes. One would like to think that the stupidity of “race” differentiation was passé but, unfortunately, racism is alive and well.
The Bible recognizes inequities in humanity only so far as situations demanded. Slaves of the Old Testament were not color-coded and Israel was even ordered to raise the bar of behavior toward indentured servants (Exodus 21, 22). During the Pax Romana of the New Testament era, discrimination was not racial but based instead upon conquer/conquered distinctions. In fact, a uniqueness reserved for churches of Christ was their discarding of all contrived barriers in the doctrine of equality in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The coup de gras, however, is found in a Jew’s sermon to a Grecian audience. Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, explaining the essence of the true God and, as an aside, stated that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). God made Adam and, prior to all of the environmental, nutritional, and geographical impacts on our micro-evolutionary change, humans had value above all other creation. Conspicuously absent is the notion that human beings have gradient, distinguishable, or variant value.
The ugliness of racism is a hard habit to break. Racism manifests itself in things as common as speech patterns to as complex an issue as wage scales. What is plain from Paul’s preaching, however, is that it should not be an issue with a Christian. As in every other aspect of life, the Christian runs by a different, more stringent set of standards. The world may retain the trappings of racism but the church is the big equalizer. A child of God does not sacrifice the obvious, viz. the different roles and responsibilities of employee/employer, husband/wife, et al., by recognizing that, in Christ, we hold an inherent, equal value in God’s sight. Therefore, to relegate one “race” to a position lower than another is completely human in origin, and sinful.
A brother in Christ in Philadelphia, John Smith, once told me, “There’s only one race of people and that’s the human race.” I will forever appreciate the wisdom and spiritual maturity of this Christian gentleman; so should we all.