How can Christians think biblically about race and ethnicity?
All people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). This is what gives all humans dignity and value. God’s creation of humanity in his image means that there is one and only one human race, and that all people of all ethnicities have the same inherent dignity as God’s image-bearers.
All people are sinful, having fallen in Adam (Romans 5:12-21). This means that all people by nature are subject to the judgment of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). It also means that racism has its ultimate roots not in circumstance or social conditioning, but in our sinful nature.
In Christ, Christians have a spiritual and covenantal unity that transcends ethnic differences (Galatians 3:28). The unity Christians have as members of the body of Christ is also a unity that genuine brings together people who have nothing in common outside of Christ, creating a glorious picture of God’s radical grace.
Local churches should be characterized by unity-in-diversity (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Ethnic diversity brings glory to God (Revelation 7:9-10). This means that ethnic differences are not merely boundaries to be overcome. Rather, we should celebrate them as expressions of God's multifaceted glory. This means that we shouldn't seek cultural uniformity in our churches, but unity-in-diversity.
One day, God will perfectly gather to himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9-10). In the end, ethnic differences will no longer divide God’s people, but will rather enhance our grasp of the wisdom and glory of God in creating and redeeming multitudes of wondrously different people.
However, since we live on the near side of that great day, we should expect that ethnic differences will not be fully transcended in this life, which provides an opportunity for sensitivity and love among God’s people. Despite our best efforts, ethnic differences will continue in some measure to separate and divide people from one another, even the people of God. Therefore, the people of God have the opportunity to show deliberate care across ethnic lines, recognizing it as an opportunity show honor to the parts of the body that have lacked it (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).
Find more great resources for church health from Mark Dever and 9Marks Ministries at www.9marks.org