Home Outreach Leaders Four Times God Powerfully Subverted Racism in the Bible

Four Times God Powerfully Subverted Racism in the Bible

In this story, Jesus is pointing out how their own cultural supremacy was keeping even the most faithful Jews from practicing love, compassion, and mercy. Because they were so fixated on maintaining their culture, they neglected the suffering of others. That’s a prophetic word for us today.

4. Jesus Subverted Racism When He Gave His Church a Multiethnic, Multiracial Mission.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded His followers to go into all the nations and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). In the Greek, the term Jesus uses is ta ethnas, which literally translates to “the nations” or “all the different people groups.”

But eight years later, that still wasn’t really happening. As the Church continued to grow and expand for the better part of the next decade, it never left the confines of the Jewish people. So Jesus Himself intervened to force the issue.

Jesus appeared to the apostle Peter in a vision and showed him a spread of foods that the Jews considered unclean. And he told Peter to eat and enjoy, encouraging him that God had declared it clean. At the same time, Jesus was calling to a Roman man named Cornelius, telling him to seek Peter out.

Once the two men met and Peter preached the message of Jesus to him, Peter witnessed Cornelius and his men receive the Holy Spirit with power. It was at this moment that Peter realized that Jesus was serious about the ta ethnas part of His great commission.

Yet it wasn’t for another ten years (almost two decades after Jesus’ ascension) that the Church leaders met in Jerusalem to codify the inclusion of non-Jewish Christians into the Church community.

The Church has always seemed slow to capture a vision for what Jesus meant when He called for a Church of the nations. But as we wade into the uncomfortable waters of questioning our assumptions about the superiority of majority culture, we tap into a vision for the Christian movement that’s grander than we ever could have imagined.

All Are One in Christ Jesus.

Too often, Church leaders are quick to quote Paul’s words in Galatians in order to advocate for a color-blind view on race that denies the existence and ongoing effects of systemic racism.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

But Paul wasn’t saying that these distinctions between individuals and groups magically disappear when we come to faith, or that we won’t have to grapple with the long standing power imbalances that arise from them.

Quite the opposite.

Distinctions of race, ethnicity, and gender are important. In fact, they’re God ordained. As we see and celebrate our differences, we more fully understand the God in whose image we are created. We just can’t allow structures that privilege one of those groups above others to persist.

If we’re attentive, we see that God consistently challenges assumptions of superiority throughout the course of the biblical narrative. As we seek to be faithful to the new kingdom that Jesus has ushered in, may we be equally consistent about dismantling systems of inequality in our own time.

A version of this article originally appeared here.