The teachings of Jesus Christ supersede the cultural practices and norms of this generation. In a world where hate, strife, prejudice, and discrimination have abounded since the beginning of time, there is a powerful and liberating call and experience to love, compassion, forgiveness, and equality.
Created by God
While there is diversity of ethnicity, tribe, nationality, language, color, and socioeconomic status, we are all creations of God and equal in His sight. “God created man in his own image…male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). Because of sin, there have been people all over the world of every generation who mistreated individuals and groups of people because of differences. However, we all have one father, and it is God who “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). While the human family differs not only in outward appearance but also in personality, customs, laws, and traditions, all people come from a singular origin. As Proverbs 22:2 states: “The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.” We are all brothers and sisters and are to respect one another and live together in unity and harmony.
A Universal Gospel
The gospel of salvation and hope is to all people. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). The great love of God encompasses people of every background, and it was for all people that Jesus died. The apostle John spoke of the angel that preached the everlasting gospel unto “them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). Paul wrote, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus…. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).
No Respecter of Persons
Peter, who well knew the separation that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles, spoke of a lasting truth. “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Paul speaks this same truth in Romans 2:11, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” God loves all people and does not discriminate against anyone. He is not partial and does not favor one person over another because of wealth, influence, color of skin, language, or family. Christians should, yea must, have the same spirit and attitude toward people who are different from themselves. James deals clearly with this subject in the second chapter. If a rich man and a poor man come into the assembly, and special regard is shown to the rich man, is this not partiality? “If you have respect of persons, ye commit sin” (James 2:1-10). This is plain teaching and is applicable to all Christians today. The truth of the Word of God must be applied where there is segregation, prejudice, tribalism, caste systems, and discrimination of any kind. The spirit of acceptance and kindness is to be reflected in Christians of every tribe, every color, and every caste. Christians are not to be partial or show favoritism but are to love and be respectful to all people.
Middle Wall of Partition
Through the blood of Christ, the middle wall of separation between the Jews and Gentiles has been broken down. Christ hath reconciled “both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby…. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:11-19). There is to be no division or discrimination in the family of God, but all members should have care one for another (1 Corinthians 12:25). There are people who have prejudices against others because of their tribe or the color of their skin and view them as inferior. The Gentiles were seen as inferior by the Jews, but Peter testified in Acts 10:28, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” It is wrong to view a race of people as less valuable or important, for all are equal.
One in Christ
While the world may segregate and divide, the Scripture teaches that oneness should exist among God’s people. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5). “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). For there to be unity where there are natural differences, we must have the mind of Christ and follow the exhortation found in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
Love As Brethren
Regardless of differences, Christians are commanded by Christ to, “Love one another” (John 13:34). Anything less is sin, for “He
that loveth not his brother abideth in death”
(1 John 3:14). Peter taught to “have compassion one of another, love as brethren…be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8-9). The divine love of God destroys partiality, discrimination, racism, tribalism, segregation, etc. True love changes how we view and treat other people. A Christian with the love of God will respect and value all people.
Judgments must be made in life, but they should never be based on ethnicity or economic status. The Levitical law addressed this: “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (Leviticus 19:15). Christ Himself taught to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Let us judge according to truth and not upon preconceived notions and prejudices.
Personal Response to Prejudice
It is an unfortunate reality that some people will not always treat others with the equality, love, and respect which the Bible teaches. Christians should follow the teachings of the Bible regardless of what is happening in society. The Word of God addresses how the Christian is to respond when treated unjustly and discriminated against. Jesus taught unequivocally to forgive those who trespass against us. “If ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26). It is a cross hard to bear to experience discrimination, but there is no place for a saint to bear a grudge or unforgiveness. “See that none render evil for evil unto any man” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Rather than retaliate, Jesus instructed to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). Just as there is too much discrimination, there is also too much unforgiveness. A Christian must be on guard when mistreated , “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15). Just as discriminating behavior has been passed down through generations, so has bitterness. We cannot gain entrance to Heaven with either one.
Not of This World
Jesus prayed that God would keep His disciples from the evil of the world (John 17:15). Evil abounds in our society; and there is much division in different countries over ethnicity, religion, color of skin, socioeconomic status, etc. Children of God are to rise above this strife and carnality, and it should never be brought in the Church of God. Saints are not to be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2), nor defined by the world and its ills. They are to set examples of love, respect, dignity, forgiveness, and acceptance of all people. There is no room for discrimination nor for bitterness. May God help every Christian to lay aside the carnal mindsets of this world and walk in holiness. The way of equality and acceptance is true, right, and beautiful. ■