The brutal and callous murder of George Floyd, a black American at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, on May 25, in Minnesota, United States, triggered mass protests and riots across several US cities and many parts of the world. The unnerving event, which was recorded on video and went viral across the globe, saw Chauvin using his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for close to eight minutes while his three fellow officers watched in implicit concurrence. Floyd could audibly be heard pleading “I can’t breathe” repeatedly as he gasped for his life, but no help was forth-coming until he suffocated. The event has brought to the fray the question of racial injustice and systemic racism ingrained in our modern world. Moreover, the death of Floyd was but a tipping point in a series of incidences of police brutality aimed largely at the African-American community in the United States. Months earlier Ahmaud Arbery had been shot while jogging in a white-neighborhood in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor had fallen victim to at least eight gun-shots in a no-knock search warrant by Louisville officers. As we struggle to come to terms with these harrowing incidences, many questions come to our minds. What causes racism? Will it ever come to an end? The Bible has answers!
Racism is by definition “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” In essence, racism is sin. It can manifest itself on a personal, individual level or more broadly it can be structured into corporate society. In historical times, racism has fueled such practices as slave trade, apartheid, eugenics, colonization and many other forms of ill-treatment of one group of people by another. Unfortunately, even in religious communities, incidences of racism have been fraught. In Scripture we come across tensions between Jews and Samaritans, Jews and Greeks or Zipporah, Moses’ Midianite wife being ill-treated by Miriam (Numbers 12). As we turn to the Bible and look at the origins of humanity and subsequently God’s redemptive plan for the human race we will find lasting answers on the question of race and racism.
The book of Genesis declares “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” Genesis 1:27. Far from some evolutionary process of development from mollusks or algae up until maturity, our origins as mankind are clearly set forth as creation by and in the image of an all-wise, infinite and loving God. What tremendous value this places upon each and every one of us! Being created in God’s image and likeness means humans resembled God in character and also physical stature. A knowledge of this truth is a solid barrier against racism; when we understand that every human being is a creation of God, we will not discriminate or demean other people on the basis of their language or color of skin. The Bible tells us that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” Acts 17:26 All humanity is God’s by creation.
However, something bad happened! Humanity failed to reach the high destiny of its calling. In the book of Romans we are told “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, and “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” Romans 3:23, 5:12. Adam and his companion Eve, our first parents, were tempted by Satan, disguised as a serpent, and they disobeyed God by eating from a tree which God had told them not to (Genesis 3). In simple terms they sinned, “sin is the transgression of the law” 1 John 3:4. And there were drastic consequences to their sin; firstly they lost their likeness to God in character (fell short of His glory) and they became subject to death. This fate was to be shared by all of their descendants, that is, all human beings on this planet (you and I included). Thus all the bad things we see in this world; racism, war, violence, corruption…etc are a result of that thing called sin which has infected the human race.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story! God had a plan to save us, to restore humanity back to its pristine glory. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. When we were doomed for eternal loss because of sin (Romans 6:23), God freely gave His Son to pay the price and redeem us back to Himself. Amazing love! In dying for our sins, Jesus gives us another chance at life, that through opening the doors of our hearts to Him, He can recreate us anew and fashion after the character of God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Those who accept this invitation, no-matter the color of their skin, the texture of your hair, the size of your ears, language, or color of eyes,…etc. become one family of God, the Christian race. They have passed from sin to righteousness, from death to life, they love one another impartially and God supremely. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28.
Christ Jesus “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation…that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Ephesians 2:14, 16. Any human devised walls of class or racial separation are broken down in Christ, and He presents one redeemed family to His Father in heaven. And casting our eyes into the glorious future, we are told of the new Jerusalem where “the nations(Greek=ethnos i.e.”races”) of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.” Revelation 21:24.