In this book excerpt Charles Clemons, author of Undivided: A Biblical Response to What Divides U.S., explains how the Great Commission is the most inherently inclusive command ever given. In this book, the reader will discover how the Bible provides the answer to racism; solutions based on the image of God, the compassion of God, the justice of God, the gospel of God, and eternal worship of God.
Some years ago, on a TV show called The Antique Roadshow, people would line up to bring their household belongings to be inspected by a certified antique collector. Interestingly, sometimes people brought an art piece, a painting, or a piece of pottery sold to them at a high price. But later inspection proved it was an imitation, a “knock-off ” of little to no value. On the other hand, someone would have in their attic an old vase or lantern they thought was worthless only to discover that it was actually of great value—a masterpiece, a priceless work of art. In today’s moral climate, people hate each other and treat each other horribly based on the color of their skin, ethnic background, culture, gender, and all in between. But every human being has been made by the greatest artist in the world—God Himself.
The sin of racism disregards the worth that God ascribed to His creation. In practice and belief, it is an affront to Him (Proverbs 17:5; Acts 10:15). Racism can be a challenge to define biblically because, in its values and firmly held beliefs, it consists of different parts. Generally, one ethnic group is valued and treated preferentially over another.
A fuller definition from Scripture is listed below:
- Racism is a denial of the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and its implications to someone of another ethnicity. Racism in the church is a contradiction of the visible unity of all believers in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22, Revelation 5:9, 7:9).
- Racism inside and outside the church is a contradiction of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31, Luke 10:25-27, esp. 29, 37), and of God’s creation of all people in His image (Genesis 1:27, Acts 17:26).
So theologically, racism entails a denial of the biblical doctrines of creation, man, the communion of saints, and is disobedience to the moral law. We will not mince words. Racism is not only sin, serious sin, it is heresy. (“Racism,” Monergism, 2018, )
Heretical teaching associated with racism severely harms how people relate to God and men. Like any false teaching, it is passed from person to person and heart to heart. Each person, their family, and community can reinforce or undermine the truth about God and people. In the American experience, as well as globally, deeply held false beliefs about the character of different peoples have been the justification for evil actions, including genocide.
Because all people are created in God’s image, they have dignity, worth, and value (Genesis 1:26). It would be unheard of for a person to go into the Louvre Museum in France and deface the Mona Lisa. In the same way, defaming the image of God in words or physical violence is a sin against God.
The topic of the image of God is found in several places in the Bible (Genesis 1:26-28, 9:6; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 1:15-17, 3:10; James 3:9-12). The above Scriptures describe how man was uniquely made to reflect God. Unlike birds, cattle, insects, and other forms of life and matter, mankind alone, as both male and female, bears the image of God. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over it.
In some way, man is like God, yet he is not. From the Genesis account, we can ascertain that just as God rules over His creation, mankind rules over his environment under Him. As image-bearers, man is to fill the earth to make it productive and useful and to represent his God throughout the world. We also learn from this passage that God decided to create and to act based on His will. Man, in His image, is endowed with the capacity for knowledge, feelings, and a will. God is in eternal fellowship among God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—one God in three separate persons, the Triune God. In this way, man reflects his Creator regarding fellowship and relationships with fellow image-bearers.
All things made at creation were deemed as good (Genesis 1:31). God alone was to be the source of knowledge of what is right and wrong (Genesis 2:15-17) and gave Adam and Eve the command “not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16). By their disobedience, and ours in them, humanity and creation were plunged into futility (Romans 8:19-25) and, as promised, began to die (1 Corinthians 15:22), yet they still retained His image.
In Genesis 9:6, the image of God was the basis for why men must never commit murder. God gave this solemn warning to Noah after destroying the earth for its wickedness and making a covenant with him (Genesis 6-9). Later in Scripture, another warning is issued about human speech. In James chapter 3:9-12, the tongue is depicted as untamable (compared to animals and a ship rudder). With the tongue “men bless God and yet curse men who are made in His image” (v.9). The Apostle James said that “this ought not to be” (v.10). From these few passages, we see that violent acts, physically or verbally, are an assault on the image of God and, thus, a direct offense to God Himself.