Does God Approve of Racism in the Bible?
by Rich Deem


Racism and the Bible

Racism is indefensible on both moral and biological grounds. Since becoming a Christian, I have been impressed how the Bible reaches out to people of all races and backgrounds. The following list represents a small fraction of the examples of what the Bible has to say about racism and prejudice.

Rich Deem

The claim is often made that the Bible is racist and that Christianity encourages racism. While there are people who claim the name of Christ and preach racist hatred in Christian churches, the Bible does not condone, but actually condemns this kind of behavior. Let's see what the Bible actually says about racism.

What the Old Testament says about people of other races

Although the Jews are described as God's chosen people, God did not choose them as the only people with whom He wanted to have a relationship. Even as God's chosen people, the Jews were warned not to oppress people of other races,1 but there was to be one standard and one law for all people in Israel.2 In fact, the Old Testament commands Israelites to love foreigners and strangers.3 The choice of the Israelites on God's part was not one that was made with regard to race or any superiority. In fact, God did not choose the Israelites because of their righteousness,4 but because of God's love. God's choice was not simply to play favoritism, but He chose one people through whom the Messiah would come to offer salvation to all peoples of the world.5

An example of racial cooperation in action can be found in the story of Ruth, which is the story of the compassion and redemption of the gentile woman, Ruth. Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, fell into the unfortunate circumstances of losing both her husband and her two sons, one of whom was Ruth's husband. With nobody to provide for her and Naomi being "too old" to be remarried, she chose to go to Israel, where the laws and traditions required the Israelites to take care of widows, even if they were strangers. One of Naomi's daughter-in-laws chose to stay in the land in order to find another husband. But Ruth chose to go with her mother-in-law, even though this meant that she would probably never be married. However, Ruth was "redeemed" by Boaz, who married her despite the fact that she was a gentile. Boaz is a preview of the unconditional love of Christ:

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" And Boaz answered and said to her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. (Ruth 2:10-11)

The line of Ruth and Boaz led directly to King David, and, of course, eventually to the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

What the New Testament says about people of other races

The New Testament is the story of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He was sent to minister only to the Jewish people.6 Even so, He healed both Jew and Gentile, including Canaanites,7 Syrophoenicians,8 and Samaritans.9 In addition to healing those of other races, Jesus proclaimed the gospel to those of other races when He met them. The woman at the well is a prime example. When Jesus asked her for a drink, her first reaction was disbelief that he would even talk to her, since she was a Samaritan.10 When Jesus' disciples came back, they were surprised that He was talking to her.11 Jesus' behavior would have been thought to be unusual, since the Jews at that time considered it unlawful to associate with non-Jews.12

Jesus gave several examples of heaven, some of which included references to race. In one example, He compared heaven to a net cast into the sea, which catches many "kinds" of fish.13 The Greek word for "kinds" is genos (Strong's number G1085), from which we get our words "gene" or "genetics." Those that are good (righteous) are saved, while the others are discarded.14

Jesus included people of other races in His parables. The most famous example is the one of the good Samaritan, who helped a man who had been robbed and beaten to near death. This non-Jew did the will of God through his good works, while religious Jews avoided the man and left Him to die on the road. In another example, Jesus described the actions of those who would be justified by Him. In the description, He said that those who know Him would be kind to strangers and invite them in.15 The Greek word for "strangers" is "zenos" (Strong's number G3581), from which we get words such as zenograph (transplant between different species). Therefore, Jesus affirmed the old Testament commands to help people of other races. A third example is from a parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven and who would be allowed in.16 In the story, a man (representing God, the Father) was giving a big dinner (representing heaven) and invited his friends (representing the Jews of Israel). All of his friends made excuses and didn't want to go to the dinner. So the man invited the poor and crippled and blind and lame, who came. Even so, there was still room, so people were invited from everywhere (non-Jewish races) to join in the dinner.

These parables and examples were carried out in the real world at the end of Jesus' ministry on the Earth. Before leaving, Jesus told the apostles to make disciples from every nation,17 reaffirming the value of all people. Following Jesus' return to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent on Pentecost.18 Since it was a major Jewish holiday (celebrating the giving of the law), people from many races and nations were present when the Holy Spirit was given.19 The Holy Spirit led the apostles to witness to many people of other races, as described throughout the book of Acts. One example was a black Ethiopian eunuch from the court of the queen of the Ethiopians.20 God sent an angel to Philip telling him to "go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza."21 There Philip met an Ethiopian, witnessed to and baptized him22 and bringing Christianity to Africa.

Conclusion Top of page

Both the Old and New Testaments say that God shows no partiality, but judges with complete justice.23 Likewise, Jesus showed no partiality.24 By example, we are also told to show no partiality, but treat all people fairly.25

The essence of biblical equality can be summed up in the Bible's book of Galatians:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)26

Even though the world does not always treat humans as equals, as members of the body of Christ, all are equal spiritually in the eyes of Jesus. In fact, those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who serve others will be exalted to a higher status in the kingdom of heaven.27 The bible says that there will be "a great multitude, which no one could count" in heaven, and that these people will be "from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues."28

Prejudice and racism has always been one of my "hot buttons," even before I became a Christian. Racism is indefensible on both moral and biological grounds. Since becoming a Christian, I have been impressed how the Bible reaches out to people of all races and backgrounds. The list above is a small fraction of the examples that can be found in the Bible.

A couple examples of events I have experienced in my Christian life have encouraged me that heaven is going to be an awesome place to experience the best of humanity's diversity. One time I was at a Promise Keepers conference, which was attended by men of all races. At lunch time, as I was getting up, I automatically starting collecting my stuff (jacket, Bible, etc.) to head to the parking lot for our meal. However, the guys I was with said, "let's leave it", and I noticed that everyone else was leaving their stuff on the seats. It hit me that heaven would be like that - not having to worry that someone would steal your things if you left them. Another time was at a rally for unity, which was put on by a church in Pasadena, CA. The sponsoring church was ~95% African American, and I was one of the few white persons to march in the rally. However, as we were walking and talking and singing, we were all brothers in the Lord and I am sure I will see them again in heaven. Heaven is not going to be some white-man's world, but a place where everyone loves the Lord, and can appreciate the uniqueness of the individual. I look forward to the time when I won't have to deal with the haters and racists that surround me in this life.

References Top of page

  1. "And you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
    "And you shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
    'Thus says the LORD, "Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)
    and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.' (Zechariah 7:10)
    'When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. (Leviticus 19:33)
  2. "But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. (Exodus 12:48)
    "The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you." (Exodus 12:49)
    'Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:10)
    'There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the LORD your God.'" (Leviticus 24:22)
  3. 'The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
  4. "Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people. (Deuteronomy 9:6)
  5. "And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; (Genesis 26:4)
    Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10)
    "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
    He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6)
    "And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. (Isaiah 66:19)
  6. But He [Jesus] answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24)
  7. And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." ...she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" ...Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. (Matthew 15:22-28)
  8. But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter... And He said to her, "Because of this answer go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter." And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having departed. (Mark 7:25-30)
  9. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine-- where are they? "Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:12-19)
  10. The Samaritan woman said to Him [Jesus], "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) (John 4:9)
  11. Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" (John 4:27)
  12. And he [Peter] said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. (Acts 10:28) The word translated "foreigner" (Strong's number G246) is allophulos, from Strong's number G243 and phulon, which has the meaning "a stock, race, of another race or foreigner."
  13. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away." (Matthew 13:47-48)
  14. "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous," (Matthew 13:49)
  15. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; (Matthew 25:35)
  16. But He said to him, "A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' "And another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' "And another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' "And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'" (Luke 14:16-24)
  17. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," (Matthew 28:19)
  18. And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
  19. "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." (Acts 2:9-11)
  20. And he arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. (Acts 8:27)
  21. Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (Acts 8:26)
  22. And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:38)
  23. "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
    And opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, (Acts 10:34)
    For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11)
    For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
    But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)-- well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. (Galatians 2:6)
    And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; (1 Peter 1:17)
    And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. (Ephesians 6:9)
  24. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher [Jesus], we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. (Matthew 22:16)
    And they came and said to Him, "Teacher [Jesus], we know that You are truthful, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? (Mark 12:14)
    And they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher [Jesus], we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. (Luke 20:21)
  25. nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. (Exodus 23:3)
    'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15)
    'You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.' (Deuteronomy 1:17)
    "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. (Deuteronomy 16:19)
    "Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe." (2 Chronicles 19:7)
    "Let me now be partial to no one; Nor flatter any man. (Job 32:21)
    To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. (Proverbs 18:5)
    These also are sayings of the wise. To show partiality in judgment is not good. (Proverbs 24:23)
    To show partiality is not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress. (Proverbs 28:21)
    I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. (1 Timothy 5:21)
    But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:9)
  26. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference. (Romans 3:22)
    For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; (Romans 10:12)
  27. "And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
    "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
    Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, (1 Peter 5:6)
    And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." (Mark 9:35)
  28. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-10)
Last updated July 8, 2006


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