What The Bible Has To Say About Racism

“But He needed to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4)

The tragic events at Charlottesville, Virginia once again show that our country has not overcome racism. In fact, it’s probably worse today than it’s been for years.

Billy Graham has said for years that the greatest problem facing America is racism. In fact, Graham’s book, A Prophet with Honor, recalls that in 1953 Graham “dismissed as unbiblical the racist contention that dark skin and the inferior social standing of blacks [were] derived from a curse Noah placed on Canaan, the son of Ham (Genesis 9.22-27) and were therefore a part of a divinely sanctioned and unchangeable order. To the question, Does the Bible teach the superiority of any one race?, he replied: ‘Definitely not. The Bible teaches that God hath made of one blood all the nations of the world … Anthropologists have come to two very important biological conclusions. First, there are no pure races; and, there are no superior or inferior races’.”

In Peace with God, Graham lamented, “When true Christians look at other people, they see no color, nor class, nor condition, but simply human beings with the same longings, needs and aspirations as our own.”

Don’t you find it somewhat unusual that we rarely hear a sermon on racism? Why? And what does the Bible really have to say about the practice of racism?

Frankly, I think most pastors in today’s churches shun the subject of racism because it’s not good for numbers. The fact is if they make their members uncomfortable, they may go to another church in search of comfort. Since declining membership can ultimately spell financial trouble, they avoid the sermons that their members may find objectionable. Hopefully, the next few weeks will prove me wrong.

Church is a place where the Christian should not be made to feel comfortable. I’m there to learn how to apply my faith in everyday life. In other words, church should make me question my behavior, and inspire me to change it. I can’t think of a better place to talk about racism. Churches need to stop worrying about numbers and remember that Jesus didn’t set up an office in the temple and expect others to come to Him. He came to us. Churches should challenge us to take our faith outside its walls.

Fortunately, the Bible deals with the issue of racism and really doesn’t care whether you are comfortable with it or not. In fact, it was so important to God that He decided to teach us about it personally. Jesus told us, just before He ascended, to spread the gospel “…in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) What many of us fail to realize is that Jews despised the region of Samaria, located just 42 miles north of Jerusalem. The animosity was so great that the bypassed Samaria as they traveled between Galilee and Judea. They took the longer route through the barren land of Perea on the eastern side of Jordan to avoid going through Samaria.

Samaritans were originally Jews, but later intermarried with Gentiles. The intermarriage created a mixed race in the eye of first century Jew. Thus, the pure Jew in Jesus‘day hated this mixed race called Samaritans, feeling that they had betrayed their people and their nation.

Jesus didn’t bypass Samaria and neither did he avoid the issue of racism. In fact, He healed a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:16), honored a Samaritan for his neighborliness (Luke 10:30-37), and preached to the Samaritans (John 4:40-42). He challenged his disciples to go to Samaria and he rebuked James and John when they once asked of the Samaritans, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54-55)

Jesus told us, “As I have loved you so you must love one another,” (John 13-.34) and he showed us through his Samaritan ministry that Christian love did not recognize race. If we could take that example outside our own church walls into our “Samaria”, imagine the difference it would make in our community.

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