In India people get placed into rigid hereditary social distinctions. And no amount of education or hard work could get a person out of their designated caste. A person born high caste enjoys all societal privileges without having to prove herself worthy of said caste, and a person born low caste gets sentenced to a lifetime of cleaning urine and feces no matter how much she tries to prove herself worthy of a better life. This may seem too ridiculous to believe. But we’d be surprised what people believe just because their relatives say it’s true.
In my opinion, all social injustice begins at this bus stop—including racism. I’m no sociologist, but I define racism as “my people are better than your people.” But the Bible says we ought to consider others as better than ourselves.
But wait—I’m not a racist. I just don’t have friends of other races.How do we fail to see the problem here? I got into a debate over this topic with a fellow seminary student who sees no problem with people associating with their own kind to the exclusion of other races. He even argued that God condones racial segregation in churches and families.
Some argue that if God wanted us all to “just get along”, then why would he make us so different physically and culturally? Why did God create human diversity, when he could have just made us all come from the same place, eat the same smelly foods, and speak the same goofy language?
Genesis 11 may offer a clue. As it turns out, all people at one time did speak one language. And God commanded this single-languaged people to spread out and fill up the whole earth. But they refused to scatter. Instead the people wanted to build a tower reaching to the heavens so they could make a name for themselves. They wanted to stick together and strengthen their group because it gave them a sense of pride. So they built the Tower of Babel. And since they disobeyed God, he confused their language so they could not understand each other. Then he scattered them across the earth anyway. (I always say God has a sense of humor.) The human race, now dispersed, lived according to their own cultures and languages. So God created segregation as a curse, not a commandment.
Fast forward to Ephesians 2:13-19. Before Christ’s death, the Jews looked down upon the uncircumcised Gentiles. And the Gentiles, likewise, did not care for the Jews. So racism has been around for some time. But Jesus did four things that nullify racial segregation:
1) Christ destroyed all racial and ethnic barriers. Jews and Gentiles now experienced ethnic and racial reconciliation.
2) Christ created one brand new race of people—Jews and Gentiles joined as one body. According to the Greek translation, believers now comprise a new race that did not formerly exist.
3) Christ reconciled all believers to God. Christ not only destroyed barriers of hostility between people, but also between people and himself.
4) This compels all believers to reconcile with each other. Since Christ’s death, no ethnic group holds privilege over another in God’s family. Even foreigners and aliens have citizenship privileges. Paul described Christians as a close knit group; the Greek translates as immediate family members of one household. As people reconcile with God, Christians must reconcile with other Christians.
Christ has destroyed all barriers between the races. So who are we to recreate them? This monument to “our own kind” nonsense has got to stop. Our cultural trophies mean nothing to God. Placing people in categories is akin to the Hindu caste system—another oppressive scheme of the devil. The gospel turns this wickedness upside down.
So if we take issue with our children marrying someone of a different racial or ethnic background, what does that reveal about our hearts? What if God intended for us to enjoy vibrant, interesting, colorful relationships instead of a stick-to-your-own-kind monotony? Racial segregation will not exist in heaven. So those planning to spend eternity in heaven should get accustomed to diversity now.
My parents reject Christianity. My dad even quotes Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I just don’t like your Christians.” If we don’t see God’s equality in human creation, then we may not understand the gospel. How well do Christians represent Christ? Do we turn people off to Christ when we judge them based on skin color? Will my parents ever come to Christ if Christians ostracize them?
Remember the Tower of Babel. The people took pride in something that led to their own downfall. What people considered their greatest strength—unity and sticking together—God destroyed by confusing their language. What they feared the most—scattering—God carried out anyway. Skin color does not define us. God defines us. Our identities and salvation come from him, not our tribes, cultural backgrounds, languages, or race. We put too much stock in things that don’t matter.
Zephaniah 3 prophesies the undoing of Babel and the great Kingdom unification, when everyone will once again speak one pure language, and God will gather all from the dispersed nations. God will join together what man has put asunder.