Moral absolutes are taught in scripture and are essential to the ethical life. Here’s one we desperately need: Racism is always and everywhere wrong. Racism is sin that can never be justified.
What is racism? It is the learned belief in racial superiority. It is expressed as prejudice and discrimination. It is located in both the personal and corporate levels. It’s a global phenomenon—where ever there are human beings there is some degree of racism. Racism is spread insidiously by the use of stereotypes—character assumptions which are generalized to an entire race. It can be institutionalized in law or unjust social structures.
The roots of racism are in the Garden of Eden, when Adam exonerates himself by shifting the blame to another person (Eve). When asked by God a simple yes-or-no question about whether Adam had eaten the fruit, Adam said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) Exalting oneself or one’s race and blaming another for all faults and deficiencies is the operating strategy of racism.
The unity of the human race was established by God and is confirmed in scripture: “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26) Racism is an attack against this God-given unity. Yet just as we are one in Adam’s humanity, so also we human beings are one in Adam’s sin. “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) In other words, after Adam’s disobedience, sin—including racism—went viral.
The cure for racism is found in the second half of the verse: the obedience of the “one man” Jesus Christ in going to the cross to take away sin. Jesus is a new Adam—a second chance for the human race. Jesus establishes racial reconciliation, “He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) When people join themselves to Jesus Christ by faith, there can be no claims of superiority, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Christian faith re-establishes the unity of the human race intended by our Creator.
God established an intentional racial diversity among us. It is God who designed skin color. God intended a diverse church, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many are one body in Christ…” (Romans 12:4-5) The challenge for believers is to preserve the balance in celebrating our unity and diversity. Just like a rubber band is useless unless it is put under tension, so it is with the church! We are worthless unless we maintain the tension of unity in diversity—and it’s precisely here where the blessing of God on human community is found.
Once joined to the New Adam, Jesus Christ, we are given a job: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18) The church was created by God to be his engine of compassionate anti-racism in a broken and hurting world. Good News: We have been saved! And now we have work to do.