A photograph capturing diverse hands united in prayer, symbolizing the biblical message of love, acceptance, and equality, while condemning racism with the powerful visual of unity and faith.

What Does The Bible Say About Racism?

Racism has plagued societies for centuries. As Christians, what guidance does the Bible provide on this critical issue? At its core, the Bible teaches that all human beings are created equal in the image of God. Though racism persists, Scripture calls us to love one another as God loves us.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Bible makes it clear that racism has no place among God’s people. Scripture emphasizes unity in Christ among people of every nation, tribe, and language. However, Christians have not always lived up to these ideals.

Old Testament Basis for Equality

All people descended from common ancestors

The Old Testament provides a clear basis for the equality of all people, as it teaches that everyone descended from common ancestors. Specifically, the book of Genesis explains that God created Adam and Eve, and their children populated the earth (Genesis 1-3).

This common origin means that all people are made in God’s image and deserve equal dignity and rights, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, or social status. As the New Testament later affirms, God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).

Many Old Testament passages condemn prejudice and injustice. For example, Leviticus 19:33-34 commands, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.”

Here the term “stranger” likely refers to foreigners, immigrants, and other marginalized groups.

The book of Malachi further rebukes those who oppress foreigners, widows, and orphans, stating that God loves and protects these vulnerable people (Malachi 3:5-6). Overall, the Old Testament affirms God’s concern for all people, not just one nation or race.

Israel called to care for the foreigner and sojourner

In addition to teaching a common human origin, the Old Testament frequently commands the Israelites to love foreigners and sojourners in their midst. God reminds them that they too were once oppressed foreigners in Egypt, implying they should have special compassion for marginalized groups (Exodus 22:21, 23:9).

Many biblical laws seek to protect foreigners. Deuteronomy 27:19 pronounces a curse on anyone who denies justice to the foreigner. Exodus 22:21 warns against oppressing or mistreating foreigners, and Leviticus 24:22 specifies that both natives and foreigners must be subject to the same laws.

The Old Testament prophets also emphasize caring for foreigners. Ezekiel 47 imagines a future where foreigners are welcomed and given an inheritance in the land just like native Israelites. Zechariah 7:9-10 condemns the oppression of widows, orphans, and foreigners.

Overall, Israel is called to be a light to the nations, modeling justice, equality, and care (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6).

Scholars emphasize these teachings show that the Old Testament values all human life regardless of race or status. Its concern for foreigners lays a strong theological basis for opposing racism and enacting equality today.[1]

New Testament Affirms God’s Impartiality

Jesus scandalously included society’s outcasts

Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrated God’s inclusive grace and radical acceptance by reaching out to the marginalized in society. He broke cultural taboos by interacting with Samaritans, women, tax collectors, prostitutes, and other outcasts (John 4:1-42).

Christ welcomed all and affirmed each person’s inherent dignity. As Christians, we follow Jesus’ example by embracing diversity and championing human rights for all, regardless of race, gender, or social status.

The distinction between Jew and Gentile erased in Christ

The New Testament affirms that in Christ, the previous distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer exists. The apostle Paul declared that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Believers in the early church overcame ethnic hostilities to form a new community united by faith. Christians today should similarly work to break down racial prejudice and discrimination within the body of Christ.

Christian Failings and the Need for Repentance

The church historically practiced segregation

Sadly, many Christian churches actively promoted segregation and racism in the past. In the United States, segregation was often enforced in churches, with black and white Christians worshipping separately. Some churches even banned black members entirely.

During the Civil Rights Movement, several prominent Christian ministers like Jerry Falwell Sr. and Bob Jones defended segregation on theological grounds.

Christian justification of slavery and prejudice

For centuries, some Christians attempted to use the Bible to justify slavery, segregation and racism. They misinterpreted verses and took them out of historical context to support prejudiced views. This led to immense harm and suffering.

Even after slavery was abolished in America, many churches continued to promote ideas of black inferiority and oppose civil rights reforms well into the 20th century.

Mistreatment of minorities persists today

While great strides have been made, issues of racial prejudice still exist in some churches today. A 2019 study found that about 65% of American churches remain ethnically homogenous, with more than 80% of attendees from one racial group.[1] Some minority churchgoers report feeling unwelcome or marginalized in white congregations.

More progress is needed to dismantle lingering biases and ensure churches become welcoming communities for all.

Christians must reject racism and make amends for historical wrongs. This requires repentance, reforming unjust systems within churches, and building mutual understanding between all people. With God’s help, believers can become agents of reconciliation and justice in society.

Overcoming Racism with God’s Love

See every person as made in God’s image

The Bible teaches that every human being is made in the image of God and has inherent dignity and worth (Genesis 1:26-27). Though we come from diverse backgrounds, we all trace our lineage back to Adam and Eve.

As people formed and knitted together by God (Psalm 139:13), we should see the humanity in one another despite surface differences.

Upholding the sanctity of all human life means opposing racism and discrimination. We can overcome prejudice by getting to know people different from ourselves and by cultivating empathy and compassion. As 1 John 4:20 states, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.

For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

Uphold justice and defend the oppressed

The Bible condemns oppression and injustice. God hears the cries of the disadvantaged and calls on His followers to liberate the oppressed (Exodus 3:7-10). Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor and freedom for the prisoners (Luke 4:18).

As Proverbs 31:8-9 states, we should “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” and “defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The church should lead efforts for racial reconciliation and social justice reform. Christians can advocate for policies that provide equal opportunities and address systemic inequities. As Jesus’ hands and feet on earth, we are tasked with building God’s kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace (Romans 14:17).

Promote reconciliation and forgiveness

While injustice incites righteous anger, harboring bitterness and resentment only breeds more hate. God calls us to forgive others as He has forgiven us (Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32). Reconciliation requires humility, honesty about the past, restitution where possible, and a commitment to walk in unity.

Christian love seeks the good of others, even those who persecute us (Luke 6:27-28). As 2 Corinthians 5:18 states, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Fostering mutual understanding can slowly heal wounds and build trust across divides.

Though racism remains deeply embedded in society, God’s redeeming power and sanctifying grace enable us to be peacemakers displaying His wisdom and compassion (James 3:17-18). By seeing everyone as equally valued members of God’s global family, we take steps toward the just, equitable and unified world envisioned in Revelation 7:9.


While Christians have too often perpetuated racism, the Bible could not be clearer in affirming the equal dignity and value of all people before God. As Christ’s followers, we must lead the way in overcoming prejudice and pursuing true reconciliation.

God calls every believer to welcome others as He has welcomed us. By His Spirit, may we reflect His love across all racial and ethnic lines for His glory.

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