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What the Bible says about Race Relations

As Christians, we look to scripture and to the life of Jesus and the apostles as examples for how we can and should live out our faith.  Though the Bible is an ancient text, humanity has struggled with roughly the same issues for all time, and so scripture continues to offer relevant insight to our current circumstances.  Race relations are no exception, and I am so grateful as I seek wisdom in this season.

Consider Jesus as he meets a Samaritan woman at the well in her community.  The encounter is recorded in John chapter 4, and verse 9 says this: The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  Jesus himself is crossing the social norms of that time and place when, as the text points out, Jewish people did not mingle with Samaritans.  He is modeling that God does not discriminate between the races--or, in fact, genders--the way other people might.  

It is important to note that Jesus did not simply make the best of a bad situation, rather he intentionally set out for this encounter.  Jesus' chosen route that day was not at all typical, or even safe, so we can conclude when verse 4 says he "had" to go that way, it was because he purposed to do so.  In fact, God has always been intentional about diversity and inclusion.  Here are some more examples:

The apostle Peter, on whom Jesus said he would build the church, had to face the profound issue of race and the accessibility of the gospel for those who were not Jewish.  We read how God spoke to Peter in Acts chapter 10 including this declaration from verses 34-36: Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.  You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all…" 

There is so much humility in Peter's words, "I now realize", as he acknowledges his necessary change of heart despite having walked alongside Jesus and been so favored by him.  I look to Peter's example as I ask God to reveal where I need a change of heart or an awakening to new understanding, recognizing that it is nearness to Christ that reveals the depth of my need.  There are many more scriptures regarding favoritism, here are some:

The whole arc of scripture reveals that God created humanity, with all of our diversity, as a reflection of the diversity present in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that he is restoring all of humanity for an eternity of harmonious diversity.  The Kingdom of God is not described as a place where we merely tolerate one another, but where we love and appreciate, uplift and celebrate one another.  As we live in the now and not yet of the Kingdom, we get to partner with God to enact that future harmonious diversity right here and now in our own homes, church, and community.

I encourage you to pray and study God's word regarding race relations, asking along the way for the humility to learn and grow and change where necessary.  Also be praying about your role in his plan; how might you contribute your resources and abilities to further the cause of Christ in this area?  And pray about your next steps on the journey; is there a group to join, book to read, or mentor to engage for further understanding?  Finally, ask God to reveal any necessary forgiveness or reconciliation; on a personal level is there an offence that can be addressed or a relationship that can be mended?

My prayers are with you, friends!

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