In the U.S., we are daily hearing about, debating, protesting, expressing outrage, and more over “racism.” It’s definitely a topic that needs serious discussion. But in order for our children to understand the issue and respond rightly, they need to be taught about it from a distinctly biblical worldview. What does the Bible have to say about racism? What does it look like? What’s the solution? Digging in to these important questions actually broadens the scope and severity of the underlying problem. Racism is one expression of a more pervasive inclination of the sinful heart. In the Bible, we see examples of three general ways in which we wrongly judge and treat people:
- Prejudice is sinfully prejudging people based on wrong and prideful distinctions.
- Partiality is sinfully treating people with favor based on wrong and unfair distinctions.
- Discrimination is sinfully treating people with disapproval based on wrong and unfair distinctions.
Look at one example from James where we see all three being warned about:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.—James 2:1-4, 8-9
In this example, discrimination was based on economic standing, not on race. But the same underlying sinful inclination is at work when people are prejudged and discriminated against because of their race, and we have seen the awful and terrible extent of this throughout history—slavery of African Americans, segregation of Native and Japanese Americans, discrimination against the Irish, Chinese civilians murdered by Japanese armies in World War II, Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the Rwanda genocide… Tragically, we could go on and on. Clearly, no people group or nation is immune to racism or any other type of prejudice, partiality, and discrimination—nor is any individual. And the Bible alone provides the necessary clarity for understanding the problem and the only solution for addressing it rightly.
As a starting point, here are 11 basic biblical principles to teach children:
- All people, regardless of any outward or inward qualities, are God’s image bearers, and deserve to be viewed as such. We are all equally members of the “human race”. (Genesis 1:27).
- Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves—no matter what their race, appearance, age, where they are from, what language they speak, their abilities, etc. (Mark 12:31).
- All people, from all races, cultures, ages, classes, etc. are sinners, and fall short of reflecting God’s glory as we should (Romans 3:22-23).
- Everyone who is saved has been saved by grace alone, and not by any good qualities or distinctions that they may appear to have (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- God commands people to make distinctions based on His standards, not our own (John 7:24).
- God’s people need to judge individuals on their true “fruit”—their words and actions—and not on any preconceived opinions (Luke 6:43-45).
- Forgiveness for prejudice, partiality, and discrimination is found by looking to Christ (1 John 1:8-9) and then, if possible, seeking reconciliation with those we have personally sinned against (Matthew 5:24).
- When people prejudge us or discriminate against us, we are to have the attitude of Jesus (1 Peter 2:23).
- Whenever possible, we are to strive to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
- Christians are one people—without distinction of race, ethnicity, etc.—because we are united in Christ (Romans 10:12).
- God has designed that Jesus’ church will include people of every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).
Obviously, this is not all the Bible has to say regarding this important topic. However, we must be careful to not simply highlight a particular form of prejudice like “racism” without addressing the others which, when truth be told, are actually much more pervasive (and often overlooked) in the human heart.
To explore this topic further with older children and youth, here is a free lesson from the curriculum Your Word Is Truth. Along with these basic points given above, this lesson offers numerous real-life examples, as well as suggestions for further discussion and personal application.