Race relations are a relevant and in many instances controversial topic in our country these days. The distrust, dislike, and disdain some folks have for whole groups of society not like themselves is nothing new. People have been mistreating and misjudging each other ever since Cain murdered Abel. However, that doesn’t meant you and I have to be that way. Every man and woman, boy and girl who determines that they will personally treat all folks fairly moves society forward. How do we do that?
First, see the image of God in each person. The Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Unlike God’s creation of animals and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, God created people unique – in his image. That’s true of all people regardless of color, ethnicity or nationality. We all have God as our common denominator. “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God…” (Acts 17:26-27).
Second, avoid stereotyping people. What is a typical white person? What is a typical black person? What is a typical Asian person? What is a typical Hispanic person? It is natural for all people to develop prejudices – prejudgments – about people, places, and things with which they are unfamiliar. That happens when we process the information we receive and form an opinion before we have firsthand experience, which violates what Jesus told us to do. He said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). Sin is deepened when we allow that prejudgment to lead us to think less of others and assume we know more than we do. The Bible says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). Don’t project on people what you think you know about them.
Third, make character count. Probably the most quoted line from Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is this: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Character is the true measure of a person. To prefer the company of people because they look like you is shallow, silly, and immature. It is also self-defeating. What great friendships are undiscovered because people prefer sameness over goodness! Once again, Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
Fourth, get to know people. Now let’s be honest. Some people are mean and rotten. I don’t want to be friends with those people and I stand on solid ground. The Bible says, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). That “bad company” is found in all races and nationalities. Yet there’s also a lot of good company out there in all races and nationalities. Once we let down our guards and get to know people we may find many of our prejudices fall by the wayside. Maybe that’s secretly what some people are afraid of. They not only have their prejudices, they prefer them. They’ve grown rather fond of their walls; it makes them feel secure and superior. Those walls will also keep the people they enclose quite small and suspicious.
Fifth, remember that all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). God inspired Paul to write that to the Roman church because Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians weren’t getting along. God wanted them to know that because all of them had sinned, none of them were better than the rest. They all needed Jesus regardless of ethnicity. The same holds true today.
Finally, think for yourself. The Bible says for us to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Don’t let others spoon feed you their poison. Not only is that unsafe, it is intellectually lazy. Believe what you believe because you have tested it, weighed it, and thought things through.
We will always have to deal with small-minded people. It’s the past of least resistance and it’s the path that many people choose to follow. Christians can and must do better than that.