And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.[Acts 17:26]
Living in America, it is easy to become myopic and view polarizing social issues through biased lenses that only provide a limited perspective. How we view race in America is a good example.
When it comes to racism, Americans often forget that racial prejudice, injustice, and oppression represent age-old sins that have plagued humanity from the very beginning. Truly there is nothing new under the sun, and unfortunately racism is alive and well — not just in America — but all over the world.
The sad stories of racial discrimination and even ethnic cleansing are all too common in many nations today. In many parts of Europe, Africa, India, and the Middle East, for example, millions of people are being marginalized, oppressed, and even killed all in the name of race.
Racism is one of the plagues of humanity that extends far beyond American soil and that traces its roots back to the very beginning of time. The best way we can overcome this sinful condition is first to discover what God says about race, to view reality through God’s eyes, and then to put His word into practice.
So what does the Bible say about race?
There is Only One Race — The Human Race
The first truth we discover in God’s word is that while obviously there are many diverse ethnic groups and nations in the world, there is only one race — the human race.
We are of the race of Adam — the first man created by God — in the image of God — at the very beginning of creation [Mark 10:6]. As Acts 17:26 says, God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” Adam is the first man and his wife Eve is the mother of all the living.
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.[1 Corinthians 15:45-47]
We all are sons of Adam by nature making us species unique. We have human DNA and human blood running through our veins, and despite the variety of skin tones among us, we all bleed red. Every human ever born belongs to the human race, and only humankind retains the exclusive privilege of being the imagers of our Creator God Himself.
Babel — the Birth of The Nations
These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.[Genesis 10:32]
After the global flood of Noah’s generation, we discover that the LORD put a stop to the rebellion at Babel and confused the languages of man, resulting in the origin of the nations. By necessity, each unique language group spread out across the earth and settled in its own territory, creating natural divisions among humankind [Genesis 11:1-9].
The Bible says that there were approximately 70 original nations that can trace their lineage back to Babel and from Babel to Noah and from Noah to Adam. The Hebrew word used for nations is goiim and the Greek word used in the New Testament is ethnos — both of which refer to distinct ethnic or people groups who share a common language and culture. Once again, the Bible speaks of many nations but only one human race.
Israel — A Chosen Race
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.[Deuteronomy 7:6]
We cannot tell the Biblical story of redemption without mentioning God’s unique covenant and purpose for a small and peculiar people group called Israel. Of all the nations of the earth, God chose to uniquely reveal Himself to one particular ethnic group — the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God did not choose Israel at the exclusion of the other nations, however, but rather for their ultimate blessing and salvation. For it would be through Israel that God revealed His word, His covenants, His law, and most importantly … His Son Jesus Christ. God’s plan of redemption for the whole is forever connected to Israel because the Savior of the world would be born of Israel.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.14Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.[Genesis 28:13-14]
God Shows No Partiality but Only Looks at the Heart
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.[Deuteronomy 10:17]
Although God certainly chooses certain people and groups to serve His purposes, He does not show favoritism nor is He partial to anyone based on who they are, from where they come, or what they look like. Once again, although God chose the nation of Israel to become a blessing to the world, He also has been harder on Israel than any other nation on earth.
One of the great shortcomings of the children of Israel is that they often used their “chosen” status as a license to sin and became proud and arrogant. God’s relationship with Israel historically has been characterized by one divine chastisement after another because Israel elevated their ethnic identity above their practical obedience. In other words, our tribe or race is not what matters to God but rather the condition of our heart, for God does not look at the outward appearance but only the heart.
God desires our love and loyalty above anything else. The good news is that God does not discriminate based on race but has demonstrated His love for the whole world by offering the free gift of eternal life to every people and nation through Jesus Christ. However, neither does God show partiality and play favorites when it comes time to judge us for our sin.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality[Colossians 3:23-25]
The Beautiful Complexion of the Kingdom
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll[Revelation 5:9-10]
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Racism is destroyed at the foot of the cross. When we behold the Son of God shedding His precious blood and giving His perfect life for the whole world, then every artificial barrier and superficial standard we create comes crumbling down. The walls of racial hostility cannot stand in God’s kingdom because God has redeemed for Himself a people for His own possession from every tribe and nation and language and people and has created for Himself one new man [Ephesians 2:11-22].
It’s not that our ethnic identities are lost in the coming kingdom of God. Quite the contrary. Distinct nations will persist in God’s kingdom. Jesus will rule and reign from Jerusalem as the King of Israel. All people groups will retain their ethnic identities, however, our ultimate identity will be in Christ, who is making one new people from all the nations of the world.
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.[1 Peter 2:9-10]
The beautiful diversity and complex variety of the nations will become a mosaic of God’s mercy and when all joined together will fully reflect the pure light of Christ and forever display the glory of God. Just as pure white light consists of the endless variety of colors on the spectrum, the diversity of God’s kingdom when all joined together will shine pure like sun in all its splendor.
The only way racism will be defeated is for humankind to find its true identity in the One True God and in His Son Jesus Christ, who came to redeem a people from every nation. This is precisely why Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, to proclaim the gospel to the ends of creation and to make disciples of all nations! With every single soul that is saved and with every precious person that comes to know the love of Christ, racism dies.
Will you destroy racism with me?