Race and racism are bigger than we are, but God has been involved from the beginning, setting things straight and teaching us a better way. The Bible is framed by mythic stories about people, in gardens and cities, showing us what God plans and intends for human beings. In the beginning there are two versions of the creation story – one poetic and ritualistic (Genesis 1) the other earthy and artistic: God making creatures out of mud pies and placing them in the garden (Gen. 2). What’s clear is that God made the “adam” (at first, a non-gendered word for human being) to reflect God’s image. I draw from this that every human person reflects the nature of God, and deserves our respect and dignity. God the creator divided the human, into male and female, and placed us into a garden to cultivate. As human beings began to know good and evil (3), to choose evil, violence and death (4-7), there was still one language, and presumably, one culture, nation and race. God did not create race, or racialized people. By the time people built the first city, a tower of power, God chose to “confuse their language” (or diversify languages) which caused people to scatter around the world (Gen.11). These stories fit what we know from science, that human beings originated in Africa, perhaps Ethiopia, and migrated from there into Asia and later, Europe.
The Bible includes many many examples of interactions between nations and cultures (not race, that’s newer), and pays careful attention to the status of immigrants. In the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) these stories focus particularly about Jewish people and their national neighbors, but promises of interdependent well-being are interspersed throughout. God says to Abraham “I will bless you and you will be a blessing,” and we read about his family’s interaction with the nations around them. Do a word search of the Old Testament for the word “foreigner” and read about God’s concern for immigrants and refugees. Reread the prophets and Psalms asking questions about cross-cultural interaction and God’s concern for justice.
In the New Testament, a group of people begin to follow Jesus, out of the great variety of the mediterranean basin, forming the multicultural multilingual early church. Reread the book of Acts for stories about how the early church grew across national and cultural boundaries, and resolved cross-cultural conflicts to become one diverse community following the way of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit descended, first on His or Her agenda was to heal the communication rift between people of different cultures and races (Acts 2:3). Paul writes “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith …there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ… heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). The writer of Ephesians claims that the work of Christ Jesus on the cross was as much to reconcile us to one another, as it was to reconcile us to God (Ephesians 2).
In the very last pages of the Christian Bible, God gathers “a great multitude… from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (a sacrificial image for Jesus) (Rev. 6.9). In the end “a new heaven and a new earth” descend, “the holy city, the new Jerusalem” descend from God. God proceeds to make a home among human beings, in order to comfort, to wipe tears away, to end death and mourning. God creates a beautiful city, described with precious jewels and gold, and “people will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations” (Rev. 21:22) From the throne of God is a river, and on either bank grow the tree of life, and “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22).
I take all this to mean that reconciliation, and healing between races and tribes and nations, is God’s concern and God’s work. Our hope, is trusting God. Our way, is to follow Jesus Christ, faithfully and actively, as he leads us forward.