The world makes a big deal about racial identity, often seeing ethnic or racial differences as being hopelessly divisive and the primary source of our identity. Terms such as “racism” and “anti-racism” have recently been redefined. As Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride would say, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” The supposed antidotes to racial prejudice, systemic racism, and oppression all too often fuel a new form of ethnic pride just as bad as the former. A biblical worldview puts this new “critical race theory” into proper perspective.
The racial tensions that rocked our country in recent years have led to numerous sad incidents and struck the hearts of many people. In season and out of season, a Christian should fall back on the Scriptures for the insight given by our Lord to properly understand in what ways humans are or can be united. There will always be differences or even divisions. Sin courses through our human nature, making up the thoughts, emotions, and actions bubbling out of the heart that separate us from God and each other. However, there is One Creator and One Reconciler for mankind.
Our alienation began at a time when only two people existed, and it spans into our own lifetimes today. How can such a huge problem be solved? Let us look at this question through the lenses of Holy Scripture: “What is the basis of human unity?”
Fundamental Unity—Imprisoned Under Sin No Matter Our Ethnicity
Fundamental unity began with Adam and Eve, established by God in Eden, when He breathed life into them, gave them a soul, faith, righteousness, holiness, and love. This was also to be our perfect unity with God as fellow partakers in their divinely created humanity.
However, perfect unity was shattered for all Adam’s descendants by the fall into sin (Genesis 3). Adam’s lineage is disunited by sin and severed by death (Genesis 5). Not one ethnicity, not one person is able to escape this brokenness without divine reconciliation.
But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Galatians 3:22).
People seek unity in human relationships: family name, country, local birth, place of work, and many other senses of identity. But why is there disunity between employee and employer? Why is there disunity between neighbors? Why is there disunity among citizens of one country? Why is there disunity among people of similar culture? Why is there disunity between family members? There is no denying this simple but profound truth: sin erodes God’s good creation.
Consider families from my own Latino heritage: the stereotype is that blood is the reason for loyalty among family. Realistically, not everything is unified; the self-applied stereotype that family is everything is thrown out the window when we see that Latinos sin just as much against their own blood as other ethnic groups. Man’s own attempts to unify end up destroying what little unity we have. Are our families, our communities much different?
Paul reminds the Galatians, who faced tensions between Jew or non-Jew, that everyone was imprisoned under the law. Despite how you look, how civilized your people are, or how cultured you feel, there is no room for self-righteous moralism. God’s divine morality places all people under condemnation, all people equally united in sin, equally deserving of death. There is not one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:12).
So boldly, I write: despite our different physical traits and the history of our unique earthly heritages, the great equalizer under the law is sin. Let this be a humbling starting point for us all.
Still, even as different cultures war with each other, God providentially guides the nations so that He may save them. God the Son Himself would become the great equalizer, making sin His to suffer for all people, that all may be saved, “so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22).
One Blood to Unite Us All
Paul writes to the culturally diverse people of Ephesus, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love….” (Ephesians 3:14-17).
The Ephesians have their own ethnic tensions, yet are reminded that God is Father of all—that every family in heaven (the saints of every nation) and on earth has been established by the grace of God. Realize that these different people are united through faith in Christ. In anyone’s heart where Christ reigns, there His kingdom, His church, His family exists.
Paul teaches that Jesus’ blood tore down the wall of hostility between us and God (Ephesians 2:14). We are no longer imprisoned by the law. Jesus’ blood dripping from the cross assumed the guilt of all of Adam’s race, yet it is also the holy blood of God the Son. His blood releases us from the power of our racially charged ethnocentrism. His undeserved love calls us to fill His heavenly banquet hall from all the winds of the earth—to unite under one family head and name, Jesus.
Reaching Out to Reconcile in Christ
The Christian message deals with the obstacles blocking the way to Jesus. If you are a non-Christian coming at this topic with your personal views and equality is what you desire, then you will be repeatedly disappointed that human solutions always fail to reconcile us. God’s law is the great equalizer, placing everyone under wrath. But greater is the blood of Jesus to do the very opposite: it unites us together with Him as forgiven sinners, as members of His new family, His holy people.
Jesus desires you to have equal salvation with Him regardless of ethnic heritage. For that very purpose, He became the victim of our racism today. Willingly God the Son was beaten, though He was innocent; He was murdered by Jews and non-Jews; He struggled to breathe on the cross; Jesus was disunited from God in a most mysterious way—all this so that God would unite Himself to us. There has been no other redemption or reconciliation like this between people in history. However, you, dear believers, are united with all believers as one family, kingdom, and church—from every “nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).
God’s grace toward us, no matter our heritage, is amazing! We have a gracious—a merciful—God who strengthens and roots us in the love of Christ. Therefore, you are changed and moved to love those who hate you for being black or white or whatever, and to be ready to suffer, not as a champion for the world’s social justice, but as a testimony for the Gospel of reconciliation in Christ. You are regenerated to speak in love to those who are hostile. Let us admit where sins have been committed. Let us also hold firm to Gospel proclamation, not moving from the Word that establishes us and sanctifies our culture—as we pray in our liturgy (ELH, p. 96).
The restoration of human unity begins and ends in Christ, who restores the good creation that was ruined by the fall. In Him, we are a new creation, rescued from the world’s racial mania to be united for eternity.
Rev. Daniel Ruiz