The Gospel and Race

“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”[1]

Too often Christians get their anthropology—that is, their beliefs about humanity—from secular sources instead of the Bible. A biblical anthropology will unequivocally assert that all persons, regardless of race, national origin, or language spoken, are inherently valuable in the eyes of God. If we were to adopt a purely biblical anthropology, we would immediately see that racism proceeds from sin and to sin.

Racism proceeds from sin because its driving force is an incorrect, perhaps even heretical, anthropology. Instead of drawing our theology of race from the Bible, we have too often drawn our theology of race from our secular culture. In so doing, our theology has become a weapon against our brothers and sisters in Christ. On the basis of this incorrect anthropology, we have pushed away fellow believers: How unfortunate! Of all the institutions in the world, the Church of Jesus Christ, in which, as Paul said, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,”[2] should surely be the most unified! The unsubstantial issue of race ought not divide brethren who have been bound together by the substantial issue of Christ’s blood.

What makes the secular theology of race so damning is that it denies what Christ has done. Whereas Christ broke down the dividing wall of race, racism attempts to erect the wall of race. If you’re a racist, then know that Christ disagrees with you.

Racism’s sinful beginning in a sinful anthropology proceeds to sinful actions. As Christ said, “by their fruit you will recognize them.”[3]

One of the greatest tragedies ever committed in human history was the institutions of chattel slavery as performed in the American south prior to the Civil War. Unfortunately, my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, was an unabashed advocate of chattel slavery—notably, we have repeatedly apologized and denounced our founders for their heinous sins.[4] However, what’s done is done, and many of the fences burned in the antebellum south by those who claimed to be followers of Christ have not been mended. Growing up as a Christian in the southern US, I became familiar with the phrases “white church” and “black church;” the reason being that, in the southern US at least, people typically go to church with those who have the same skin color as themselves.

Make no mistake about it: In heaven, there will be no white church, and there will be no black church. In heaven—indeed, in God’s eyes at this moment—there is only the Church. To draw closer to Christ’s vision for our local churches, we must overcome the division of race. Composed of all true believers—race, national origin, and language spoken notwithstanding—the true Church of Christ knows not these earthly divisions.

A second area in which the incorrect anthropology behind racism manifests itself is in how we understand ourselves and our fellow believers. If you’re in Christ, you have more in common with your fellow believers, earthly divisions notwithstanding, than you do with any nonbeliever. Our culture attempts to drive the dividing wedges of economic status, education level, ethnic origin, language, appearance, etc. between different people. In Christianity, Christ overcomes all of those ephemeral distinctions to make one Church, one bride of Christ, comprised of all races, nations, and languages.

The cross of Christ overwhelms all earthly distinctions in importance: If you’re in Christ, you have more in common with believers in sub-Saharan Africa than you do with your unbelieving sibling. You are not a white follower of Christ; you are a follower of Christ who happens to be white. You are not an American Christian; you are a Christian who resides in the US. You are not a Republican follower of Christ; you are a follower of Christ who happens to be Republican. If we are in Christ, being in Christ is the most fundamental element of our identity.

“(Christ) himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”[5]

Notes & Sources

[1] Galatians 3.26-29, all scripture quotations are from the NIV

[2] Galatians 3.28

[3] Matthew 7.20

[4] See, for example, “Resolution 7: On Sensitivity and Unity Regarding the Confederate Battle Flag,” The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, accessed August 1, 2017, http://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/resolution-7-on-sensitivity-and-unity-regarding-the-confederate-battle-flag, and “On Racial Reconciliation,” The Southern Baptist Convention, accessed August 1, 2017, http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/2254/on-racial-reconciliation.

[5] Ephesians 2.14-16

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