When you’re under stress, your natural biases tend to rise. When we are under tension, we are more prejudiced toward other people. And we’ve all been under tension lately. Now, the Bible calls this self-centered and even sinful bias, the sin of partiality.
“Fear the Lord and judge with integrity, for the Lord our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.” 2 Chronicles 19:7 NLT
God is a just God. The word righteousness and justice are the same. God hates injustice. He hates perverted forms of revenge and justice. God does not tolerate partiality. Partiality is just an old English word for what today we would call prejudice or discrimination or bigotry. There are different kinds of prejudice. We can be prejudice based on someone’s appearance, age, achievement, and wealth. The area of partiality, we’re addressing today is racism.
Any time we talk about race, there are no easy answers and it’s easy to get it wrong. There are all kinds of attitudes as we approach the sin of racism. There is the attitude of being actively involved in bigotry. There is the attitude of being uncomfortable and actively avoiding this topic. There is the attitude of being insensitive to what hurts others. There’s the attitude of apathy. Those who would say, “I’m not a racist, I’m not an avoider, I try not to be insensitive, but I just don’t care.”
But if we’re a follower of Christ, we’re commanded to care. God wants us to care. Today many are saying it’s not enough just to not be a racist, we must be an anti-racist. Christ followers already have a word for this. What God wants all of us to be is a reconciler. A reconciler is somebody who is building bridges. God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation in a society that we see being more pulled apart, more polarized, more demonized, more distracted, and more divided.
If anybody needs to have a peacemaker it ought to be God’s people. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called the children of God.” God wants us to be reconcilers. Why is this such a big deal to God? Why does God hate racial prejudice so much? Let’s look at four reasons.
Racial prejudice questions God’s creation. It was God’s design that we would be different. A prejudice person is essentially saying, “God, you made a mistake in creating that person. You should have made them like me.” It is a blatant expression of pride, arrogance and narcissism.
“From one man (Adam) He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.” Acts 17:26 NLT
We all came from the same source, anyway, Adam and Eve. We did not choose when we were born, the color of our skin, who our parents are, our background, the culture, the nationality. It doesn’t say anything about our character. What a foolish thing to look down at someone else about.
Racial prejudice is a sign of ignorance. When we celebrate division or look down on others because of their race, we reveal our darkness, our foolishness and that we don’t understand God’s plan and purpose.
“But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:11 NIV
Anytime we show favoritism or any shame, we are walking around in blindness and in darkness. On the other hand, the opposite is also true. The wiser we become in life the more wisdom we have, the more unprejudiced we’re going to be.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 NIV
Knowledge shows up on tests, but wisdom shows up in relationships. All of those are relational words, not intellectual words. Wisdom shows up in relationships.
Racial prejudice disobeys the Great Commandment. What is the Great Commandment? Jesus summarized all of God’s law in one sentence and Paul repeated it in Galatians 5:14-15.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14-15 NIV
He is saying if instead of showing love we attack and tear each other apart we’re only destroying ourselves. The division, the angry words, the sarcasm is just tearing us apart. The Pharisees came to Jesus and they asked, “Okay, you say, love your neighbor as yourself, the most important command next to loving God with all your heart.” They asked, “Does that just mean literally my neighbor or does it mean everybody who exists?”
Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan as an answer to who is our neighbor and the good Samaritan if we remember is about racial reconciliation. The hero in that story, the good Samaritan, is a hated minority. The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. The church, which is the family of God, is to be the answer to racism and every other kind of prejudice.
Racial prejudice is a series sin. God hates racism. It’s a sin that angers Him.
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” James 2:8-9 NIV
Racial prejudice is one of the world’s most prevalent sins. No matter where we go in the world, groups of people hate other groups of people for sinful reasons. The racial reconciliation and getting this out of our hearts is not some minor issue to God. It’s at the heart of the gospel. The gospel means good news, so here’s the Good News. We Christians know that’s possible. We know that people can change by the power of God. When Christ’s love comes into our lives it changes us.
About 250 years ago, John Newton was a vile and vulgar man. He was a slave trader. He was English and he would go to Africa, steal Africans and then transport them to America and sell them as slaves. But God got a hold of this man and Jesus Christ entered his heart. His heart was so softened, he became a pastor. John Newton wrote the words of the hymn Amazing Grace.
That song, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” was written by a slave trader. “I once was lost but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.” This is a man who had a total transformation. This song that is sung all over America, was sung three days ago at the funeral of George Floyd. That’s the power of the Gospel.
How can the power of the gospel go to work in our life? How do we root out this racial prejudice in our lives?
We must learn to see people as God does. We must learn to look at people like God does. This doesn’t happen naturally, it has to be learned. We’re going to need to ask God for help. How do we learn to see everybody who comes into our lives the way God does?
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
We’ve got to look at the heart. Not only are books judged by their covers, and houses are judged by their curb appeal but people are judged for ignorant, sinful reasons.
Jesus: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:24 NIV
How do we judge correctly? By seeing people the way God sees them. The Bible is full of examples of cultural prejudice and racial prejudice. The whole book of Jonah and everything that happens to Jonah is because Jonah hated the people God was sending him to preach to. Jonah knew if he went that God would forgive them and Jonah did not want to forgive or see God forgive the race that Jonah hated.
Even Peter, one of the greatest disciples had to overcome his prejudice against non-Jews. He had been raised as a strict Jew and a strict Jew couldn’t even touch a non-Jew, which were called Gentiles. In order to spread the gospel, God had to give Peter a dream to break through his prejudice against people that weren’t like him. God gave him a dream to prepare him, to reach non-Jews around the world. Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, who was a non-Jew, he was a Roman. Peter goes to his house, which is really illegal for a Jew to do in those days.
He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Acts 10:28, 34-35 NIV
We need to start asking God to help us see people differently.
We need to listen to everyone with respect. We must listen to everyone regardless of their views with respect. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, but we listen to them with respect. Prejudice is a failure to listen. The less we listen to people, the more prejudiced we’ll be. The word “prejudice” actually comes from the word to “prejudge.” When we prejudge somebody without listening to them we are prejudiced.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 NIV
Do we want God’s righteous purposes in our nation? Yes. Do we achieve it through anger? No. Does that mean we should never be angry? No. Of course not. There are a lot of things we should be angry about. There’s a difference between godly anger, anger for somebody else which is selfless, and human anger which is centered on self. When we get angry, anger blocks listening.
As a reconciler in the world, a representative of God, we need to learn a couple of skills on how to diffuse somebody when they’re angry. We need to listen to their hurt not their words. When people are angry they say all kinds of mean words they don’t believe, they will later regret and wished they hadn’t said. We’re more sympathetic to people who are hurt than we are to people who are angry. When you reinterpret their anger as hurt it makes us more willing to listen. If we do this we will become wise.
We also need to learn to use the phrase, “we agree.” Phrases like, “we agree” and “tell us more” will make us a peacemakers. We’re not suggesting we just agree with whoever is talking and whatever is being said, just encouraging us to find common ground. We’ll never find solutions if we can’t even mutually express there is a problem. We don’t have to agree with everything to find something to agree on and build from there.
If someone says, “Black Lives Matter,” can we not say, “we agree?” Can we not agree on the fact that black lives matter? We’re not talking about an organization, we’re not talking about every solution that’s being proposed. But that statement and that fact.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 NIV
As peacemakers, we can find agreement in the pain. There is something powerful when we start with, we love you. We agree with you. We want to stand with you. When we speak, when we post, when we respond, we represent the body of Christ. We represent the truth of God, we don’t want to say anything that harms the body of Christ.
We must love everybody the way Jesus does. There’s nobody we’re allowed to not love. Even if we could not find any agreement. We’re still to show them love.
Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV
How does Jesus love us? Unconditionally, freely completely and continually. How are we to love other people and other races? Unconditionally, freely, completely, and continually. This is hard, but we need to spend our lives trying learn, and asking God to empower us. Love is very practical. How in the world are we ever going to build a society like that with all of the differences, all of the violence, all of the hatred and all of the prejudice on many different sides? God’s plan to change society, to bring people together is the church.
God’s plan to bring people together is the church.
The church is to model harmony and unity and fellowship and reconciliation. Paul explained the church this way.
“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:13,27 NLT
We are all needed in the family of God. We’re all needed in a church home. We need each other because none of us are complete in ourselves. We all have weaknesses. None of us can have all of the gifts. We can’t model reconciliation by ourselves. It’s easy to love people who are like us. But if God’s going to teach us real love, He’s going to put us around people who are different.
We need the church because we find our identity in relationships. Our world is fracturing more and more into many different divisions. There is a crisis of identity in the world. It is probably the most common crisis in modern culture. People are saying, “I don’t know who I am. What gender am I? What culture am I? What race am I?”
We see this struggle everywhere in race and sexuality in our place in the world. Why? Because when relationships are broken, people don’t know who they are. God wants to tell us that we’re His.
A sincere recognition of Christ’s sacrifice realigns our values in such a way that makes prejudiced views impossible.
For the person who believes in the gospel, any individual they encounter falls into one of two categories: either brothers or sisters in Christ or those who are separated from God and to whom they are called to minister. Only the injustice of what was done to Jesus on the cross is powerful enough to stop injustice in our world.
Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Provides” “Offer God what you have and trust him to give you what you need.” Any more observations from your discussion last week?
God hates racial prejudice because it: (1) questions God’s creation, (2) is a sign of ignorance, (3) it disobeys the Great Commandment, and (4) is a serious sin.
If we are to root out racial prejudice in our lives, three steps that we can take are to: (1) see people as God does, (2) listen to everyone with respect, and (3) love everybody the way Jesus does. God’s plan to bring people together is by understanding that we’re one church and that our primary identity is that we all belong to God’s family.
Read the story of The Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37
Discussion & Application
- Romans 14:10 (ICB) “So why do you judge your brother? And why do you think that you are better than he is? We will all stand before God one day, and he will judge us all.” Take a moment to ponder the questions asked in that verse. Why do some people think they are better than others because of their race?
- Growing up, what was your family’s view of racial prejudice? Was it ever discussed?
- Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Think about disagreements you’ve had with your spouse or with a friend, or even the disagreements about race today… How might interpreting someone’s anger as hurt, and finding common ground of agreement help us be more constructive?
“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:13,27 (NLT)
- Think of a time that you struggled to find your own identity in the wrong area (race, nationality, language, economic status, etc.) Discuss in your group how this struggle would have been avoided if you had started from your identity in Christ. What specific steps can you take to see your primary identity as a Christ follower?
Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Finish your group by praying for unity. Thank God for making the people in your group the way he did. Pray some of the scriptures from your outline.
1 Corinthians 12:13 mentioned baptism. Have you been baptized? Prayfully consider it and take that next step.