What does the Bible really say about racism? What is racism? Does the Bible condone it? How are our children to think in regard to the "race issue” in the world? Join AMBrewster as he deals broadly with the topic from a biblical standpoint.
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I like to dedicate our milestone episodes to significant topics. It doesn’t really have anything to do with thinking that episode 100 needs to be more special than episode 99; it’s actually just my way to remember when I talked about big topics.
Yeah, it’s a forgetfulness thing.
So, today as we welcome episode 400 into the family, we end our current discussion of racism talking about how to teach our kids what the Bible says on the subject.
But, please allow me to digress for a moment.
I am so incredibly thankful that TLP has made it 4 years and 400 episodes. I am so grateful for all the new listeners and our continued growth, and I’m humbled to be invited into your family each week.
Please understand, though, that I am walking this parenting path right next to you guys. I don’t believe so many people have resonated with Truth.Love.Parent. because I’m the guy who has it all figured out.
I believe Christians find challenge, encouragement, and joy in these episodes because of God’s all-sufficient Word. Those of us who know God and follow Him love to hear what the Bible says. We love to have the Scriptures applied to our daily lives. We love how relevant and practical the Bible is, and I believe that’s why more and more people are subscribing to TLP.
And I am simultaneously thankful and honored to be doing this with you.
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Your participation in this ministry is vital and extremely valuable, and I thank every one of you who has invested in our ministry.
Also, if you are new to the show, then we provide free episode notes and transcripts with nearly every episode. Just go to our blog, TakingBackTheFamily.com, to read and download them.
Now, as we transition to our discussion concerning racism and the Bible, please acknowledge a couple things:
With those points cleared up . . .
We need to start by defining our terms. And — man, oh, man — that’s not easy in this case.
1. Let’s consider beneficial modern definitions of “race” and “racism.”
I say “beneficial” because there are a lot of perverted and adulterated definitions for which we don’t have time.
According to Merriam-Webster “race” is "any one of the groups that humans are often divided into based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.”
Two older definitions include, “a group of people sharing a common cultural, geographical, linguistic, or religious origin or background” and “the descendants of a common ancestor : a group sharing a common lineage.”
And these definitions have value. God created us in His image, we are orderly, we are scientific in our thinking, and so we like to categorize and collect things into groups so as to better understand them.
This is not only the reason we have what we call races, but it’s also why there are so many denominations of Christianity.
And according to Merry-Web, “racism” is “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
Of course they also include “the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another,” and “a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles.” These are unnecessary points to make because — whether the oppression is “systemic” or not, or whether it’s lived out in a single individual or a whole organization, it’s still racism. It’s just Merriam-Webster’s attempt to appear “woke.”
But I can get behind their first definition of racism with no qualms. At its core, racism is the belief that certain people groups are inherently better than others. This can produce prejudice, hatred, bigotry, and the like.
Again, there are a ton of other less helpful definitions. For example, people are called “racist” simply because they did something unkind or because someone took offense at an otherwise appropriate comment or action.
We’ll talk a little bit more about this whole “offense” thing later, but — suffice it to say — you’re not allowed to just arbitrarily make words mean what you want them to mean. When a white actor portrays a Jewish man (and no one really cares about that because — unfortunately most of the people who throw the term “racist” around don’t really care about the Jews) — anyway, if a white man were to portray a Jewish man, that is not racist. Sure, an equally talented Jewish actor may wonder why he didn’t get the role, but to claim that the other actor is racist (aka: believes his race to be superior to the Jews) simply because he portrayed a Jew in a film is a deliberate perversion of the language.
If someone hates another people group, then — by all means — call him a racist. But just because he did or said something you don’t like doesn’t mean that guy actually hates anyone. In fact, I’ve found that the people who use the term “racist” the most are — more often than not — far more literally racist than the person they’re deriding.
But I digress. Moving on.
2. Let’s consider the biblical understanding of “race” and “racism.”
A. When we turn to Scripture we see the common understanding of race, but we also find two additional components not present in any of the definitions we’ve seen.
Consider Exodus 23:23 where God tells Moses, “For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.”
Those distinctions fit our current understanding of race. Those groups were named for their ancestry; more specifically they all had a common ancestor in Canaan, Noah’s grandson.
Now, we definitely do not have the time to talk about why God commanded the Israelites to wipe out Canaan’s descendants. As much as you may think it has to do with racism, please understand that it categorically did not. It very clearly had to do with the events in genesis 9, the subsequent prophecy made in Genesis 9, and the individual choices made by those people groups.
We’ll revise this more later on, but for now we must move on.
So, back to the point. That verse is an example of how the Bible does categorize people according to ancestry, geography, and the like. And doing so is not inappropriate when we do it correctly.
The main issues that arise occur when people define the categories differently.
I’ll use my own heritage as an example. I’m about a quarter Polish. Now, that is my ancestry, but other than a penchant for pirogues and paczkis, I do not have the cultural experiences that people have who live in Poland or who grew up in a home that appreciated Polish traditions. I’m Polish by ancestry alone, not tradition.
But there’s a third understanding, the pejorative understanding. While I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon to hear “Polish Jokes.” These were similar to “Blonde Jokes” in that they tried to portray Polish people in the dumbest possible light. And the people who told me most of those jokes were my Polish relatives. In fact, I don’t think I can ever remember hearing a Polish Joke from someone who wasn’t even part Polish.
Those are three very different ways of interpreting what it means to be Polish. You can have any mix of ancestral, traditional, or prejudicial understandings.
But it’s not just the prejudicial usage that people don’t like.
In the 2010 Karate Kid remake, Jaden Smith’s character turned to a Chinese man on a plane in an attempt to practice his Chinese greeting. After Smith’s character stumbled over his salutation, the Chinese man replied in perfect English, “Dude, I’m from Detroit.”
Some people in that gentleman’s position may have chosen to be offended that someone else assumed he spoke Chinese just because he clearly had asian ancestry. But — unfortunately — this discussion falls outside of the purview of today’s topic. We’ll have to save it for a talk concerning how it’s a sin for Christians to choose to be offended.
Yes, you heard me correctly. It’s a sin for Christians to choose to be offended. But, since I’m planning to dedicate a whole episode to why it’s a sin for you and your family to feel offended, I’ll just let that sit there for now.
Anyway, people may not like being categorized a certain way, but it’s a normal human way of understanding the world.
In addition to illustrating our modern understanding of race, the Bible also adds two very important concepts that do not appear in Merriam-Webster.
But before I explain that, I need to remind us that our modern understanding of race has been strongly influenced by evolutionary thought. Most of the world either believes that mankind accidentally evolved from a primordial cell division or that God set the process in motion.
This causes many issues. First, it makes man no more than a slightly more developed animal. Therefore, our supposed worth is not in any way inherent, but grows from our proclamation of the fact that we have value.
Add that to the fact that until recently, scientists have propounded that modern humans with ancestry from different parts of the globe did not have a shared ancestry, and you have a huge problem.
If I’m Adolf Hitler, I can argue that my “race” is better than the Jews and justify exterminating them the same way I would any other lower life form. If I’m Margaret Sanger, I can justify sterilizing people and killing babies from families of African descent because I view them as less evolved than I and a blight on our nation.
But the Bible makes it very clear that every singe person to ever live shares four common ancestors with every one else. We all go back to Noah and His wife, and before them we all go back to Adam and his wife.
Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Now, what’s interesting is that pagan science is finally realizing they were wrong about the whole races-evolving-independent-of-other-races theory, and they’re finding — through genetic research — that all humans alive today have a common ancestor.
Surprise, surprise. Crazy how ancient Jews knew that thousands of years ago without the ability to study DNA.
Anyway, pagan science is always slow to “discover” truths God proclaimed long ago. But the good news is that one day every man, woman, and child will kneel before Jesus Christ and proclaim Him Lord of Lords. Everyone will finally agree with God on at least that one point.
But, since we all go back to Noah, then the discussion of race should have nothing to do with our innate humanity. You can’t legitimately view one people group as being lesser evolved or less human than another. From a biblical standpoint, that’s impossible.
By the way, I prefer not to use the word race in my Family Talk. We talk of a person’s ethnicity, culture, traditions, and experiences, but I teach my kids that there truly is only one race; and that is the human race.
All Christians need to teach their children that every single person on this earth is a unique creation of God — all equally created in His image, all equally human. And each is deserving of the love and respect that God commands people to have for each other.
Other than the Bible-wide theme exemplified in the constant illustrations of and commands to love, I think the perfect example of this came directly from Jesus Himself in Luke 10:29-37, Wishing to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.””
What’s interesting is that the Jewish lawyer who asked the original question couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan.” Many of the Jews and the Samaritans could legitimately be considered racist. Even though they had shared lineage, the Samaritans were considered untouchables because their bloodline had been mixed with foreigners (possible even Assyrians).
But Jesus, on a number of occasions interacted with Samaritans and showed them the same honor, love, and respect He showed everyone else who was willing to listen to the Truth. The Woman at the Well in John 4 is a perfect example.
The point is, no true follower of Christ will ever allow a person’s bloodline to affect the way they think about them. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, God not only commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but also to love our enemies.
Therefore, we Christians have no leg to stand on when it comes to prejudice of any kind.
But the Bible introduces a second wrinkle to would-be racists. Yes, we may categorize people by geographical locations, culture, and skin color, but first, we’re all humans — equal in our image-bearing — but — in Christ — our ethnicity means even less than it did before.
Again, we can’t look at all the passages, but these three are a fantastic representation.
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 10:12-13 reads, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
And Revelation 7:9-10 paints a glorious picture of the heavenly realm, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
Mankind started as nothing more nor less than a special creation of God designed to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. And that’s exactly how God intends for us to enter into eternity. That fundamental reality transcends any superficial differences or categories we may place on ourselves or others.
So, let’s sum this up.
From a Biblical perspective:
A. People can be grouped according to legitimate shared criteria.
There is nothing wrong with that practice as long as it’s accurate and used for Christ-honoring purposes.
Christians should never be manipulated to feel guilt because they accurately group people for valid reasons.
In college I was talking to a deaf friend, and he was expressing annoyance over the fact that people sometimes referred to him as “that deaf guy.” So I asked him, “If this were a campus of deaf students, and someone wanted to refer to me, but they didn’t know my name, how do you think they would communicate to their friends whom they were talking about?” With a sheepish grin, he replied “That hearing guy.”
People can get their noses bent out of shape for lots of sinful reasons. In fact, people hated Jesus simply because He spoke the Truth. If what you are saying and doing is being done in God’s Truth with God’s love, you do not have to feel bad because someone doesn’t like it.
However, if you’re sinning by being unkind, unloving, sinfully hateful, having a superiority complex, or the like, then you should feel shame over your actions. You should confess that and repent.
B. Racism makes no sense because all mankind is the same kind of human.
We’re all image-bearers of God with only superficial physical and experiential differences.
It’s never appropriate to judge a book by its cover, but we are to judge a person by their actions. The world doesn’t like this reality. If you judge what they’re doing, they will likely call you a racist in order to frighten you to stop. Again, we need to think biblically about this.
I have known plenty of stupid people who just so happened to be Polish. If I tell one of those people that what he did was really dumb, it doesn’t matter if he accuses me of being racist. My comments had to do with his actions, not his ancestry.
On the other hand, if — hypothetically speaking — the few Polish people I knew were all really dumb, it would be completely inappropriate for me to assume that they entire people-group is equally as dumb.
That is not theological. That is not giving people the benefit of the doubt.
C. In Christ, our superficial differences melt away.
God calls all people to Himself and welcomes them the exact same way. In Christ we are unified in our original created purpose.
I love how I can meet brothers and sisters in Christ from every walk of life, ethnic background, and life experience, and all of that melts away in light of the fact that we are children of the King of Kings.
We need to teach this glorious truth to our born again children and exemplify it in our own lives.
D. God commands that we love all people.
Even if people didn’t all come from the same ancestor, even if they could be accurately categorized as less intelligent, more dangerous, or less valuable than another — and, by the way, they can’t — but even if that were true, God still commands that we love everybody.
We need to want and work toward God’s best interest for everyone He brings into our lives. We’re to love our families, friends, fellow citizens, and even our enemies.
If you’re curious what that looks like, I encourage you to listen to our “Four Family Loves” series. I’ll link it in the description of this episode.
But allow me to bring some more Scripture into this point.
Romans 2:11 tells us, “There is no partiality with God.”
In Acts 10:34-35 we read, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
John 7:24 commands us to “not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
And James 2:9 reveals that “if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
We have no right to be partial or prejudicial to anyone because of superficial differences.
E. Therefore, sinful hate and prejudice is a sin.
I keep referring to sinful hate because when you understand the Bible’s understanding of hate you realize that some hate is actually holy. If that confuses you, I encourage you to listen to some of the other episodes I have linked in the description.
But, yes, a legitimate “belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” is a sin.
Now, I know we’ve gone a little long today, but I knew that I would have to address one more issue.
Some people believe that the Bible is racist because it teaches people to be racist.
They argue this for many reasons, and all of them are incorrect. The Bible does not support racism in any way, shape or form, but there is one passage in particular that was historically used to justify racism here in America.
And since we already alluded to the idea at the beginning of the show, I wanted to circle back around to it and lay it to rest.
In Genesis chapter 9 we read a disturbing account of how Noah’s son, Ham saw and responded to his father’s nakedness. Now, there has been a lot of conjecture about this passage, and it’s not my intent to unpack all of its implications, but I need to at least introduce the concepts so we can finalize our discussion of racism.
So, Ham responds inappropriately to the situation to such a degree that Noah curses Ham’s family, starting with his oldest son, Canaan.
Now, this was a prophetic curse that came true after the Exodus. It was never fully accomplished because the Israelites did not obey completely, but one day it will be accomplished perfectly in the eternal state.
Here’s what the curse included: ““Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. 27 “May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.”
The basic gist of the curse is that Canaan’s descendants would become servants to the descendants of Shem and Japheth. Now, here’s where it gets interesting.
In the same way we all go back to Noah, the people of the earth can be broken into three smaller groups who go back to each of the three sons. For example, my family history is primarily through Japheth, but I did find out recently that there is a very small chance that the line of Shem may be included in my DNA.
Allow me to be more specific. Shem’s descendants basically constitute Asia including the Israelites, Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Lydians, and the Syrians.
Japheth’s people populated Europe. This included the ancient people groups known as the Cimmerians, Scythians, Medes, Greeks, Turks, Slavs, and Etruscans.
And Ham’s descendants spread down into the Middle East, but primarily into Africa. Their people groups include the ancient Ethiopians, Egyptians, Libyans, and Canaanites.
Now, put this together with me. If you combine a weak understanding of this curse with hateful prejudice, then you will come to the same conclusions that many religious Americans did.
Some early Americans justified slavery based off this passage. They basically said that because the Africans were descendants of Ham, they were cursed by God to be the slaves of the Jews and the European peoples.
Now, please understand that every people group in the world — at one point or another — has enslaved other people groups and people from their own group. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m suggesting that Caucasian ethnic groups have been the worst.
I’m pointing this out to address the criticism that the Bible commanded the slavery of black people by white people.
Anyway, that was their justification. God pronounced Himself the God of Shem, Japheth was invited to dwell in Shem’s tent, but Canaan would end up being their servant.
By the way, before I point out the issue here, I do want to see the beauty of this promise. I — being 99.99% from Japheth love this passage because Jesus Christ did not come solely to die for His chosen people, the Jews. Yes, the Jews are near and dear to God’s heart, but He purchased atonement for all those who follow Him.
That means that I have been invited to partake in the blessing of Abraham. There is so much theological glory in this prophecy.
But let’s focus on the poor interpretation. It is true that Ham’s descendants include the people group who migrated to Africa, but those people were not descendants of Canaan. Ham has four sons, the Ethiopians descended from Cush, the Egyptians descended from Mizraim, and the Libyans descended from Phut.
Canaan’s descendants settled above Africa east of the Mediterranean Sea known as the Land of Canaan.
The just curse God leveled against Canaan through the mouth of Noah was not on all of Ham’s descendants — it was on Canaan’s descendants.
Guess what? The partial fulfillment of that curse was accomplished millennia ago when the Children of Israel entered the promised land.
God’s whole plan from the beginning was that the fulfillment of Noah’s prophecy would come during the time after the Exodus.
Now, again there are so many questions to be answered concerning the reason for the initial curse, was it completely fulfilled, are there Canaanites still living today, if so, what does that mean, but none of that matters for today’s discussion.
No one can use Genesis chapter 9 to argue that God expects people living today to be the servants of other people living today.
Now, the Bible does have a lot to say about slavery, servitude, and employment, but each of those have been thoroughly and abundantly addressed by other scholars, and we are simply out of time.
So, what does all of this mean for your children?
They need to learn that racism is a sin because racism is wicked hatred. It grows from pride, arrogance, and a misplaced sense of superiority.
But God reveals in His Word that all humans are image-bearers of God worthy of the respect of that position, everyone has the potential of being a child of God through salvation provided by Jesus Christ, and we are to love all people — even our enemies.
On the other hand, it is sinful for people to choose to be offended. Whether that offense is being taken by actual sin or perceived sin. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to give our kids the impression that someone is racist simply because a group of individuals doesn’t like what they did.
Just like everything else in life, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.
Racism is defined by God as the sin of the individual committing it, not by the opinion of men.
As we’ve been learning for the past 400 episodes, God gets to define reality. We do not. God gets to say what sin is and what sin isn’t.
Root your children’s understanding of racism, love, hate, good, bad, right, wrong, and everything in-between in God’s eternally relevant, daily-practical Word.
And — in addition to that — please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so other Christian Parents can learn to teach their children to think biblically about racism.
If we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must teach them to see life through God’s truth and then live that life through God’s love.
To that end, join us next time as we discuss how to “Help Your Children Celebrate Biblical Diversity and Unity.”
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