(This article originally appeared in the September edition of the Baptist Courier)
My father is from Eastern Kentucky. Growing up, he did not know many people from ethnic backgrounds different from his Scots-Irish roots. The odds were stacked against Dad regarding whether he would become prejudiced towards people of color; however, his time in Vietnam turned the odds on their head.
Dad said that, in Vietnam, he shared a tent with an African-American soldier. They went on combat missions together and fought infiltrators at their base together. They placed their lives in each other’s hands and fought for each other. During that time, Dad learned a profound lesson about humanity. He told me, “Son, we all bleed red. It doesn’t matter what skin color we have.” Dad also taught to see each individual as a person and not to stereotype.
The events of recent months have brought to mind Dad’s words and some truths in Scripture regarding our humanity and the issues of racial equality and racial reconciliation. In addition, a spectacular message by Russell Moore at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Leadership Summit convicted me that the issue of racial equality and reconciliation is a gospel issue. With that conviction, consider the following biblical principles that provide a foundation for racial equality and reconciliation.
1) We all have equal intrinsic value because we are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) Because we carry the image of God, any attack upon an individual from any ethnic background is an attack upon the image of God. No one ethnic group has more of God’s image than another; therefore, every individual belonging to any ethnic group carries equal value in the sight of God and should carry the same value in the sight of men.
2) We are all sinners in need of salvation. Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” (Romans 3:23 ESV) He also declares that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV) Every human being is a sinner who will suffer eternal death in a place the Bible calls Hell if he does not repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, regardless of his color.
3) Jesus Christ died for people from every ethnic group in the world. We often quote Jesus’ declaration in John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV) According to Jesus, He died for people from all over the world. He died on the cross to purchase atonement for people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
4) Jesus commands His Church to make disciples of people from every ethnic group. (Matthew 28:19-20) In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commands His disciples to “make disciples of all nations.” The Greek for “all nations” here is panta ta ethne. That last word should look familiar to you, for it is where we get our word “ethnic.” Jesus literally tells His disciples to make disciples of people from “every ethnic group” or “all ethnic groups.”
5) Believers from every ethnic group are coheirs with Christ and members of the Body of Christ. Paul tells the believers in Ephesus “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6 ESV) He tells the believers in Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 ESV) Paul clearly teaches that, regardless of our ethnic background, believers are unified by the blood of Christ as brothers and sisters in Christ.
6) The Great Commission will result in people from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping Christ. In his description of the great worship service he witnessed in his vision of Heaven, John writes:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)
As a result of the Church’s fulfillment of the Great Commission, people from every ethnic group around the world will worship before the throne of Christ Jesus.
In light of the biblical principles mentioned above, Christ-followers should treat racial equality and reconciliation as a gospel issue (not a social, economic, or political issue).