The task of each Christian is twofold—to proclaim the gospel and to love our neighbor.
The Bible does not contain any clear definition of race, referring instead to nations, tribes, tongues and peoples. Yet we find racial prejudices throughout the Bible. The Lord showed his displeasure by disciplining Miriam for her criticism of Moses’ Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1– 15). Jonah was disciplined when he refused to take his ministry to those of another culture (John 1:12). Peter, after opening the “door of faith to the Gentiles,” was admonished when his behavior did not exemplify grace (Acts 10:15; Galatians 2:11– 18). We must avoid the idea that God approves any mistreatment according to race.
The Bible contains no justification that the people of one race are superior to those of another. Eve is called the “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20), and all are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26– 27). All people are under the power of sin and are sinners, and everyone falls short of the glory of God and needs redemption (Romans 3:23). Jesus Christ did not die on the cross exclusively for one group but for all (John 1:29; Romans 8:32). God does not respect persons according to their outward status or condition, and neither should his children (Luke 6:43– 45; James 2:1).
Prejudice in the Early Church
Extreme prejudice existed between Jews and Gentiles in biblical days. Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, considered them unclean, and would have little to do with them. No orthodox Jew would enter the house of a Gentile, much less sit down at his table to eat. Peter’s vision of the clean and unclean animals (Acts 10:9-16) convinced him that, just as there is no clean or unclean animal flesh, so no human being should be considered clean or unclean. Through God’s revelation, Peter recognized that Jesus Christ had died for all people (Acts 10:28).
Jews and Gentiles had been longtime adversaries when God directed Peter, a Jew, to go to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile. Though reluctant, Peter obeyed and went to the Gentile home and preached, and the entire family believed (Acts 10:28– 35). Peter’s visit initiated open access to the gospel of Jesus Christ for all.
Lessons for Today
Communication and shared fellowship are perhaps the greatest weapons against prejudice because they weaken hasty, harsh judgments and clear the way for compassion. We are wise to use caution when segregating ourselves according to ethnic, gender or socioeconomic differences.
The evaluative question must be, “Would God be pleased with the way I treat those of other races?” As ambassadors of Christ, believers must exemplify his standard of love for all people (2 Corinthians 5:20; John 15:12).
Content from this article has been drawn from study material in the NIV Woman’s Study Bible.
A perennial best-seller, The Woman’s Study Bible is relied on by women of all ages as the go-to source for Bible study needs. Beautifully redesigned – and the only full color study Bible for women – its timeless content speaks God’s life-giving truth to women today. Learn More