What Does The Bible Say About Racial Jiustice?

What Does the Bible Say About Racial Justice?

In its profound wisdom and timeless messages, the Bible has been pivotal in shaping fundamental values within societies.  It offers a rich compilation of stories centering on inclusivity and social justice.

Echoing in both the Old and New Testaments, scripture underscores the importance of love and inclusivity, regardless of social, racial, or economic background.

In a world increasingly divided by racial, societal, and economic disparities, these biblical teachings become powerfully relevant. 

Biblical Teachings on Equality

Old Testament Perspective

The Bible begins with a profound assertion of human dignity: we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This foundational biblical truth also implies an inherent equality among all people. The Exodus story further underscores God’s concern for the oppressed, as He liberates the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

New Testament Perspective

Jesus Christ consistently interacted with diverse individuals, causing controversy by breaking societal norms. His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) demonstrated His disregard for racial and gender prejudices.

Similarly, His parables often emphasized inclusivity, such as the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), where those normally shunned are invited into God’s kingdom.

Apostolic teachings also affirm unity in Christ. Galatians 3:28 declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Overcoming Interpretational Challenges

The Bible can be and has been used to justify various kinds of behavior that stand in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus. Understanding these biblical texts requires careful interpretation. It’s important to consider their historical context and address potential contradictions. We must also recognize our own cultural biases that might color our understanding. To arrive at your own informed conclusions, you may want to try some of these strategies:  

  • Cross-referencing different Bible versions to gain a broader perspective.
  • Consulting scholarly commentaries for expert insights.
  • Engaging in group Bible studies to learn from diverse viewpoints.

Was Jesus a “Person of Color?”

Many American churches have represented Jesus in church art and other materials as having fair skin and light eyes. In her 2018 book What Did Jesus Look Like?, Joan E. Taylor makes the case that Jesus was not white or European in appearance. 

By using archaeological remains, ancient Egyptian funerary art, and historical texts she, like other historians and biblical scholars, concluded that Jesus had the same features as the majority of the population in Judea and Egypt in that period.  In fact, he likely had the appearance common to today’s Middle Eastern population; with brown eyes, dark brown or black hair and olive-brown skin. He may have stood about 5’5” tall, the average man’s height at the time. 

Jesus and Racial Injustice

Christ’s Unconditional Love

Jesus’ interactions with various individuals displayed His unconditional love and disregard for societal norms. Noteworthy examples include:

  • His conversation with the Samaritan woman challenges racial and gender prejudices.
  • The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), teaches us to show compassion beyond racial boundaries.
  • Dining with tax collectors and sinners illustrates his inclusive love (Matthew 9:10-13).

The Universality of Jesus’ Healing Miracles

Jesus’ healing miracles served as a testament to universal love and an open rebuke to the discriminatory practices of the society in which he lived. 

For example, Jesus healed a Roman Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13). In this account, we see Jesus affirming the faith of a man who was part of the oppressive Roman establishment – a group often despised by the Jews.

Jesus healed a foreigner suffering from leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). This demonstrated his willingness, shocking at the time, to extend compassion and healing to those outside His ethnic group.

Similarly, (Mark 5:25-34) the healing of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, considered unclean and ostracized according to Jewish law, reflects Jesus’ commitment to uplift those who had been cast out of society. 

All these instances clearly show that Jesus’ mission of healing and restoration was not limited to a specific race, social status, or gender. His miracles continue to inspire believers across the globe, and to combat racial and social injustice.

Lessons for Today’s Racial Injustice

Jesus’ teachings and actions provide valuable lessons for confronting today’s racial injustice. They call us to:

  • Reject discrimination and prejudice: Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman and the Roman Centurion underscores the importance of rejecting discrimination. 
  • Advocate for marginalized voices: The Parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ dining with tax collectors and sinners highlight his commitment to advocating for those rejected by society. As the hands and feet of Christ, we could support causes that uplift oppressed communities and promote diversity and inclusion in our workplaces.
  • Following Christ’s example of inclusive love: Jesus’ healing miracles, like those about the foreign leper and the bleeding woman, serve as a reminder of the power of mercy and inclusion. As followers of Jesus today, we can actively listen, and educate ourselves about the histories and experiences of different racial and ethnic groups.

The Bible and Human Worth

Stories of Redemption and Transformation

The Bible is filled with narratives of redemption and transformation, emphasizing God’s ability to bring about radical change in individuals and communities. Saul, a staunch persecutor of Christians, underwent a dramatic transformation to become Paul, a significant apostle in the early church (Acts 9).

Similarly, Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, experienced the same spirit of redemption and became integral to Jesus’ genealogy (Joshua 2). These stories remind us that no one is beyond the reach of God’s transformative love and grace, urging us to offer the same acceptance to others.

Christianity and Activism

The Role of Prophetic Voices in Scripture

Prophetic voices in the Bible, such as Isaiah and Amos, are significant exemplars for modern Christian activism.

These prophets were spiritual guides and social reformers, advocating fearlessly for all the oppressed nations.

Their messages, filled with passionate pleas for justice and equity, resonate deeply with today’s struggles against racial and social injustice against systemic racism and inequality.

Faith and Works: Translating Christian Love into Action

James 2:17 reminds us, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” This powerful statement underscores the importance of translating our Christian values into tangible deeds.

Confronting social injustice, such as racism, involves more than just verbal support. It requires active involvement, ranging from volunteer work and financial contributions to self-education and advocacy.

By standing in solidarity with victims of racism and supporting equality, we embody the spirit of Christ.

Building a Fair and Just Society

In his book of the Old Testament, the prophet Micah exhorts the faithful to “act justly and to love mercy” (Micah 6:8). This call to justice and mercy forms the bedrock of Christian activism. The Christian pursuit of justice also aligns seamlessly with peaceful protests and advocacy, which are legitimate and potent expressions of Christian activism. 

Churches and Racial Reconciliation

Being Accountable for the Church’s Past Racial Transgressions

Across the US, churches and other institutions are confronting head-on their complicity in historical white supremacy and racial injustice. This process involves a rigorous examination and acknowledgment of the sins of the past, coupled with a plan to make amends.

Promoting Diversity in Church Leadership and Worship

Encouraging multicultural worship experiences and diverse representation within the church leadership hierarchy sends a strong message of acceptance and unity. Being inclusive includes citing texts written by authors of a variety of backgrounds; not just white men.  Music selection and musicians can reflect the broad variety of races and ethnicities in our rich national heritage.  Church artwork and symbols should reflect our diverse culture.

Additionally, initiating cross-cultural education among congregants facilitates fresh perspectives, fostering a sense of community that embraces every ethnicity. 

The Church’s March Towards Equality

In a world where racism seems stronger than ever, the Church stands as an oasis of God’s grace, inclusivity, and transformative love. We are called to translate our faith into action, raising our voices against systemic racism, committing to movements that promote societal equality. 

The Church must acknowledge its historical complicity in racial injustice. There is an urgent need to rectify past wrongs, learn from history, and make amends. 

Our faith is made manifest through our deeds, and by standing in solidarity with victims of racism and supporting equality for all, we navigate the turbulent waters of racial and social injustice.



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