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Private rental racismHow could one not be moved by the events in Charleston last week? Indeed “moved” is hardly a sufficient verb. We need words like heartbroken, appalled, grieved, outraged, and disgusted. Nine brothers and sisters murdered, and after being so kind to the killer that he almost didn’t go through with his wicked machinations. How can this happen? In America? In 2015? In a church? And inspired by the kind of racist beliefs we’d like to think don’t exist anymore?

But they do exist, even if (thankfully) not like the used to.

Charleston is a beautiful city and there have been beautiful gospel scenes broadcast from that city in these last days. But obviously all is not beautiful in South Carolina, just like all is not beautiful in Michigan, and all is not beautiful in the human heart.

I’ve grown up my whole life hearing that racism was wrong, that “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (to use one of the first definitions that popped up on my phone) is sinful. I’ve heard it from my parents, from my public school, from my church, from my college, and from my seminary. The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong. We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known (and loudly), but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like those people, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say. As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?

Here are ten biblical reasons why racism is a sin and offensive to God.

1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realize. The sign pictured above is not just mean, it is dehumanizing. It tried to rob Irish and Blacks of their exalted status as divine image bearers. It tried to make them no different than animals. But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, color, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different.

2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-20; 5:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different.

3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.

4. Separating peoples was a curse from Babel (Gen. 11:7-9); bringing peoples together was a gift from Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). The reality of Pentecost may not be possible in every community–after all, Jerusalem had all those people there because of the holy day–but if our inclination is to move in the direction of the punishment of Genesis 11 instead of the blessing of Acts 2 something is wrong.

5. Partiality is a sin (James 2:1). When we treat people unfairly, when we assume the worst about persons and peoples, when we favor one group over another, we do not reflect the God of justice nor do we honor the Christ who came to save all men.

6. Real love loves as we hope to be loved (Matt. 22:39-40). No one can honestly say that racism treats our neighbor as we would like to be treated.

7. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). Sadly, we can hate without realizing we hate. Hatred does not always manifest itself as implacable rage, and it does not always–or, because of God’s restraining mercy, often–translate into physical murder. But hatred is murder of the heart, because hatred looks at someone else or some other group and thinks, “I wish you weren’t around. You are what’s wrong with this world, and the world would be better without people like you.” That’s hate, which sounds an awful lot like murder.

8. Love rejoices in what is true and looks for what is best (1 Cor. 13:4-7). You can’t believe all things and hope all things when you assume the worst about people and live your life fueled by prejudice, misguided convictions, and plain old animosity.

9. Christ came to tear down walls between peoples not build them up (Eph. 2:14). This is not a saccharine promise about everyone setting doctrine aside and getting along for Jesus’s sake. Ephesians 2 and 3 are about something much deeper, much more glorious, and much more cruciform. If we who have been made in the same image, born into the world with the same problem, find the same redemption through the same faith in the same Lord, how can we not draw near to each other as members of the same family?

10. Heaven has no room for racism (Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9-12; 22:1-5). Woe to us if our vision of the good life here on earth will be completely undone by the reality of new heavens and new earth yet to come. Antagonism toward people of another color, language, or ethnic background is antagonism toward God himself and his design for eternity. Christians ought to reject racism, and do what they can to expose it and bring the gospel to bear upon it, not because we love pats on the back for our moral outrage or are desperate for restored moral authority, but because we love God and submit ourselves to the authority of his word.


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19 thoughts on “10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God”

  1. Mike Gantt says:

    Charleston seems a lot more like Columbine or Aurora than it does Selma or Birmingham.

  2. Curt Day says:

    Kevin,
    All of the points made above are very good. And yet we need to make them about economic classism as well as racism. For it is not until the Conservative Church challenges power and wealth that it can, according to Martin Luther King Jr, show itself as also battling racism. That is because King saw racism, economic exploitation, and militarism as inextricably linked. In addition, people on the street understand that economic classism is as big a problem as racism.

  3. Hope says:

    Wow! This is Excellent.

  4. John M. says:

    Mr. DeYoung,

    First of all, I am a Christian, but while I agree with most of these points, I have one question. What is contra-biblical with a ‘separate, but equal’ model? Admittedly in the past there have been many abuses and sins associated, and in a perfect, sinless place there would be no separation necessary, but I think that rather than forcing two peoples together, a better solution could be to realize that different peoples are different (only to a certain degree of course – we all come from Adam), and to give different peoples their own countries. Basically how Apartheid was originally meant. I mean this in all true sincerity, wanting to know the truth of the matter.

    Sincerely,
    John M.

  5. Curt Day says:

    John,
    Separate but equal was never the case. But why insist on separate in the first place? Separate but equal goes against what the Church was made of. For in the Church was a joining of the true Jewish descendants of Abraham who showed they were his sons by believing in Jesus and the Gentile believers in Jesus. They were were of different ethnicities but united by Christ.

    But also who is being forced together against their will? In addition, the interdependencies and mobility of people kind of makes your version of separate but equal infeasible. Finally, suppose you have your separate but equal countries, will you have a greater allegiance to the Church or to your country?

  6. John M. says:

    Mr. Day,

    I am sorry that I wasn’t clear, I meant to say in a political sense, not in a religious sense. Even though now in Christ all Christians are one does not mean we ought attempt to take down all national boundaries.

    I think after the Civil War but especally during and since the Civil Rights movement whites have been forced to live together in society with blacks (I am not saying this is a bad thing- merely that they were forced). When I think of separate but equal I think of the relationship between current African countries (or European or Asian or South American) and America. Not at all completely isolated, but at the same time not pulling down any political or national boundaries. The problems with seperate but equal countries is exactly the same problem between any two countries.

    I think one should always have greater allegiance to the church rather than the country, but one would come across the same question when dealing with the separation between any two countries (example, America and Russia).

    Sincerely,
    John M.

    P.S. Actually, Liberia is sort of an example of this solution, except it was founded before the Civil War. “The founding of Liberia in the early 1800s was motivated by the domestic politics of slavery and race in the United States as well as by U.S. foreign policy interests. In 1816, a group of white Americans founded the American Colonization Society (ACS) to deal with the “problem” of the growing number of free blacks in the United States by resettling them in Africa.” -https://history.state.gov/milestones/1830-1860/liberia

  7. Curt Day says:

    John,
    But your model provides an explanation rather than a solution to the Jewish Question Europe faced for centuries. Christian Europe treated the Jews with various levels of discrimination and bigotry. Europeans never welcomed the Jews for a variety of reasons most of which could be summed up as xenophobia. So they desired that the Jews left. The Jews wanted to fit in but after centuries of brutal anti-semitism, went to Palestine and oppressed the Palestinians because the Jews did not want feel forced to live with them even though there was a substantial number of Palestinians living their prior to jewish emigration and Israel becoming a state.

    In today’s world, most kinds of development results in diversity in population. And even if you could have separate but equal, this idea could definitely contribute to border wars. BTW, not sure how your P.S. contributes to your argument.

  8. Barnabas says:

    Titus 1:12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

  9. Neville Briggs says:

    Of course the grace of the Gospel leaves no room for partisan mistreatment of those who we view as “others ”
    Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan is one of the most powerful indictments of racism.

    It is a bit rich though for the PCA teacher to say ” partiality is a sin ” when preachers of this denomination are required to be 100% committed to so called complementarianism.

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  11. Meike Taylor says:

    To John,
    In most of Africa state borders are not between peoples/tribes but were artificially imposed by European nations during colonization cutting right through the middle of peoples and ‘unifying’ peoples who were traditional enemies. Most states in the world today are multinational or multicultural, and different groups of people within countries are not defined geographically. If you separate different groups within a country or community you promote xenophobia and intolerance due to ignorance of each group to its neighbor. (This also applies to religious groups.) This was one of the problems with Jewish ghettos in Europa’s past and it is the problem in many countries today where communities of white and black citizens or communities of faiths seek to separate themselves from communities of a different faith and only learn from and listen to people of their own group. And separation emphasizes “I would rather not live next to you. I don’t want you near me,” which is one step away from saying, “My (the) world is better off without you, because I don’t agree with your views.” (Murder of the heart, reason 7 of Kevin DeYoung above).

  12. Evie says:

    Neville Briggs – are you saying that complementarianism shows partiality? (eg. to men?) Are you sure you don’t mean patriarchy? To complement is “Something that completes or makes perfect; either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole; counterparts.” Complementarians believe that men & women are different, with differing roles, yet equal in essence. Not one being better than the other, or men being superior.

  13. Neville Briggs says:

    Yes Evie I am saying that complementarianism in the church is unbiblical partiality. The biblical statements on male/female counterparts or roles are plainly about marriage. Marriage is unarguably complementary, that doesn’t mean it applies to men and women functioning as members of the church. The apostle Paul told the Galatians that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, we are all one in Christ Jesus. And this was Paul’s conclusion after discussing freedom from slavery to the law. So I conclude from that, that so-called complemetarianism is a type of legalism that squashes people’s faith. My personal experience reinforces my conclusion.

  14. dc says:

    Keep working ,splendid job!

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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