50 years ago, today, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot and killed on a hotel balcony in Memphis. Dr. King’s assassination was in response to his powerful voice of leadership in the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. On August 28, 1963, Dr. King preached, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Amen. I share this dream for my three children as well. King fought the evil of racism in his day with the twin tools of the ethics of Jesus Christ and nonviolent, civil disobedience. The world is a better place as a result.
50 years later…how are we doing with racism? Sure, there are laws protecting people from discrimination based on the color of their skin. But is racism gone? No. The tree may have been chopped down, but the stump is still firmly rooted in the ground. There’s still fear and hatred of racial differences rooted in the heart of man. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it. Today, most people know that racism is wrong, so discrimination is often wrapped in a socially acceptable garment. The evil is mostly underground. So, how do we remove this wretched stump?
As followers of Jesus, we must reconcile our views on race with the gospel. Fear and hatred of external differences come naturally. But in Christ, we are called to repent and turn and follow a new path. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Ro 8:6). So, why racism is evil?
Why is racism evil?
In the beginning, God created human beings in the image of God—to glorify God, enjoy fellowship with him, and steward God’s creation to multiply life and blessing throughout all the world. Bearing the image of God bestows inherent value, dignity, and purpose to humanity on the whole and individual people, as well. Racism is evil because it ignores the inherent value that God has given every individual person, regardless of race.
However, the world became broken and marred by sin as people turned from God. The devastation damaged human relationships, as well. Now, instead of loving and working for the flourishing life of all people, human beings tend toward fear and hatred of the unknown. But how could someone love me and hate my son or daughter? How could someone love God and hate an image-bearer of God? Racism is evil because the origin of racism is a rejection of God our Creator.
In the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, God is reconciling people with himself and with one another. The message of the gospel is a message of reconciliation (2Co 5:18-20). Any justification of racism from the Bible is a gross distortion of the gospel. Christians of all races are called to a ministry of reconciliation. We are called to stamp out the evil of racism, to dig out the wretched stump—not with violence, not with the sword—but with the flooding force of the love of Christ and with the Spirit who brings life and peace. As our hearts are freed from the fear and hatred which come so naturally, and as we lead our children and our friends and our neighbors on this path, our world will change. Racism is evil because it is anti-Christ.
I long for the day when the dream of Dr. King becomes a reality. And I long for the day where the vision of the Apostle John comes true.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'” (Rev 7:9-10, emphasis mine).
If this is God’s promise for the future in his kingdom—and God’s promises never fail—then this is God’s heart for humanity. May it be our heart as well.