There have been so many situations in my life during which I wished I could truly better understand what another person was enduring. A friend whose son was incarcerated. A friend who lovingly provided care to a parent with Alzheimer’s dementia. A friend who lost her husband early to pancreatic cancer. And a friend who was discriminated against because of the color of her skin. As much as I tried, I wanted to understand, not from a head knowledge but from experiential knowing. And lately, I’ve wondered what the Bible says about things like racism.
I have never experienced any of those tragedies, but I have experienced pain. I have been treated differently because of physical features that I could no more control than someone can control the color of their skin. I know pain from being considered “different.” And my heart hurts for those who are mistreated, or who live in fear of mistreatment because others they know have endured it.
My best friend in elementary school
As a little girl in elementary school, I always looked forward to parent teacher conference days, because it meant a half school day. Those days were the perfect no-homework days to bring a friend home on the bus. Weeks before, I asked my mother if my best friend, Nicole, could ride the bus home with me and spend the afternoon. My mother and Nicole’s worked out the details, and soon the day arrived. Nicole and I bounced off the bus, holding hands, then skipping down the driveway together eager to begin our planned afternoon. Lunch on the picnic table outside first, time on the swings, adventures with Barbie, double jump roping, and making our own designer paper doll fashions.
The day drew to an end, and we returned Nicole to her home.
I’ll never forget my mother’s question on the drive home from Nicole’s house, “Honey, why didn’t you tell me Nicole is black?”
I didn’t have much of an answer other than “She’s just my best friend.” I never thought to mention the color of her skin. What was important to me was that we were friends, and I loved her for that.
I shared that story with a black friend recently and was almost a bit taken aback by her comment, “At least your mother didn’t tell you she could never come back.” I had never even considered the possibility.
Oh, no! Quite the opposite. My parents embraced my friendship with Nicole and encouraged it. My mother had endured her own share of prejudice, having come to the United States from another country to marry my father. I saw how she was treated for being different, and I know the pain she carried.
Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
So, then, with so much hate being spewed into the world, how do we love and teach others to love?
8 things the Bible says about Racism
Recent events have caused me to introspect, and dive deep into finding out what the Bible says about racism. Since the Bible is our ultimate truth, I want my attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to be governed by what God says.
1. Start with a humble heart and consider others as better than ourselves.
Philippians 2:3-4 gives us a good place to start. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to I press others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Somehow it seems to me that if we would all start with a humble heart, truly considering others as better than ourselves, it would go a long way to accepting and loving others in their uniquenesses.
While, admittedly, it can be next to impossible to understand what others go through when we haven’t personally experienced them, focusing on what we do have in common can perhaps help bridge the gap:
2. God created every single one of us.
He created each of us in His own image, so we are all image bearers of the Most High God. God makes no mistakes. He created every single individual with intentionality to bear His image.
Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
3. We’re from the same set of parents.
Despite our different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and traditions, the family tree for every single one of us can ultimately be traced back to the same set of parents. Every human is a descendent of Adam and Eve.
Genesis 1:28, “Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.’”
Genesis 3:20, “Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live.”
4. God doesn’t play favorites—every one of His children is equally important and valuable to Him.
Paul was bold in his statement, “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). God doesn’t look at us and think one is better than another, and since He created us and doesn’t assign status, privilege, or rank, neither should we.
5. God offers salvation to all.
In fact, doesn’t want a single person to perish regardless of their ethnicity, their lifestyle, their mistakes, or their accomplishments. That levels the playing field.
Paul explained, “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
6. God will equally welcome each person in Heaven.
God’s love extends to all, and He gives gifts and talents to each.
John shared his vision, “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” (Revelation 7:9).
7. God considers favoritism and/or prejudice a sin.
God doesn’t mince words: “If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
8. Jesus taught us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.
No one wants to be mistreated, unloved, rejected, abandoned, or hated. And once they know what that feels like, that should be even more motivation to bestow goodness, kindness, compassion, mercy, grace, and love on others.
“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
As one person, I may not be able to solve the issue of racism in this country or in the world. But as one person, I can choose to inspect my own heart, humble myself, consider others better than myself, and do all I can to share the love of Jesus in word and in deed.
This is a delicate subject with no easy answers, but I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
This message brings back so many memories as a child. I had two precious black ladies in my growing up years. One of them came to iron and do some cleaning for us and the other one came to take care of us children and to clean and cook. You see, my mom was treated for depression all of my growing up years and I didn’t know what was wrong with her. She just did not do anything but sit around in her housecoat all day. Those two black ladies helped us so much and one of them gave really good hugs. I would defend black people from prejudice in my family. I am sad I never just asked my family members why they did not like them. I always defended the underdog or those I perceived as the underdog. Thank you, Dr. Michelle for sharing this awesome message from the Word of God and also for sharing your story about Nicole!!
Thank you for sharing your heart and what the Bible says about how we treat one another. If the world will know we follow Jesus by how we love one another, that means every “one another”. My family embraced all people and in 1960, my parents sold our home to a black family and we received threats. My siblings and I stayed with grandparents. The challenge for me has been to realize that even though I never behaved in a hateful manner to anyone with different skin, I represent a racial group (I am white) that has. Blacks have been wronged on many levels over the last 400 years and just because I personally did not participate does not eliminate their experience. I believe it’s important to walk around the bigger picture and ask God to help us see what is wrong and then pray to ask what our personal responsibilities are. I live in a small agricultural community far different from where I grew up. I am removed from the epicenters of violence, pain and hatred. (Although small mindedness is very present) This does not mean that it’s “not my problem”. When one part of the Body is suffering, the rest suffers as well. May we represent Christ well. For His glory.
Michelle, this post is spot-on. I left a previous comment, but I am not sure it went through. 🙂 I so appreciated your insights on what the Bible has to say about racism. We should strive to view people through God’s eyes, with a “love lens.” We should look beyond or difference to the “sameness” about each person. We are created and cherished by an amazing heavenly Father.
This is such a relevant topic, but unfortunately, so many Christians choose to ignore it. They often don’t realize they have white privilege. When I look at this country, I can only say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’