Now that our racial hostilities have come to a fast boil – some might argue a volcanic eruption – I believe it is time we admit that our approach to the issue has been ineffective. I would describe my approach to racial tension throughout much of my life in terms of ignorance and apathy. I didn’t know, and I really didn’t care.
A little more than 20 years ago, God used a visiting evangelist to expose the racism in my own heart. It came through a discussion we were having after a chapel service in our Academy. I was an assistant pastor at the time. My evangelist friend had just preached a message to our teens about courtship and marriage. Our pastor had one objection, and he addressed it after the students were dismissed. His objection? “You didn’t say anything about interracial dating.”
Before I relate our evangelist’s answer, I should remind you that a traveling evangelist depends for his livelihood on the relationships he has with pastors and churches. It would be easy enough for an evangelist to be a little bit craven out of fear of losing meetings. Our evangelist friend was not. His answer stunned me, like an open-handed slap to my face. He did not hesitate: “I don’t have a problem with interracial dating or marriage.” He explained: “You can’t tell me that a black girl and a white boy who grow up in the same church and live a few miles apart shouldn’t marry because of the color of their skin. They were raised in the same environment, they have the same cultural experiences, there can be no Scriptural reason to forbid it.”
I interjected. “God separated the races at the tower of Babel. Interracial marriage blurs the lines between those races.” He looked at me and shook his head: first, nothing in the Bible commands that we maintain “racial integrity” through marriage standards. The idea that “God set the bounds of their habitations” came from Bob Jones, and (as my evangelist friend said it), “everyone knows that the old man was a racist.” Second, nobody could give a Scriptural breakdown of what constituted a different race, or which races were forbidden to marry one another. He pointed out that some pastors say there are three races, some say there are more – some as many as seventeen.
I respected this man for his answer, but at the time, I strongly disagreed with him. Since then, God has changed my heart. First, my friend was right – God has not put a restriction on marriages based on skin color. When Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for his Ethiopian wife, God gave no credence to their criticism at all, though He did punish Aaron and Miriam for opposing Moses’ leadership. Second, God reversed Babel on the day of Pentecost, when the gospel was heard in the heart languages of – you guessed it – seventeen nationalities (Acts 2:8-11). Third, God has made of one blood all nations of men (Acts 17:26). And while it is true (as Bob Jones argued) that God has determined the bounds of their habitation, He has never restricted a nation to that boundary. Fourth, and I think most importantly, God has made us all of one blood. There can be no Scriptural grounds for forbidding marriage between blacks and whites.
In the twenty years Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3”