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I once had a conversation with a Christian man about interracial marriage. He strongly opposed such marriages and argued that our church should not publicly condone them. (As part of a series on marriage, we had photographed couples in the church and showed their pictures during a worship service. Several of the couples were interracial.) I replied that there was no room in the church for bigotry because God created us all equally and offers salvation to all freely.
Which one of us was right?
The man offered a laundry list of arguments about the evils of interracial marriage. (They were a hodge-podge of bad logic and false facts.) Noticeably lacking from his list was any biblical argument. And indeed, it would impossible for a Christian to root bigotry in the Bible. Consider, as just one example, 1 John 2:9-11:
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.
Hatred is incompatible with Christian fellowship. It is incompatible with God’s character, for as 1 John 4:8 puts it, “God is love.” It is incompatible with God’s desire to save us, for as 1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” And 1 John 2:2 makes sure we understand that Christ is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Finally, hatred is incompatible with God’s desire to sanctify us, that is, to replace our sin with holiness.
Unfortunately, some people who claim to be Christians are haters. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, Ronald J. Sider reminds his readers that “during the civil rights movement, when mainline Protestants and Jews joined African Americans in their historic struggle for freedom and equality, evangelical leaders were almost entirely absent.” And he quotes the alarming conclusion of a study of evangelicals and race, which says, “White evangelicalism likely does more to perpetuate the racialized society than to reduce it.”
If the conclusion of that study is accurate, then many professing Christians are still stuck in sin. They have not moved from darkness to light in their actions. They have not experienced the sanctifying power of God, his ability to liberate us from hatred and for love. And that, quite frankly, should alarm us.
Christianity, after all, is not just a creed to confess. It is also an ethic to be lived. Indeed, if John is to be believed, the truthfulness of our confession is demonstrated by the integrity of our lives. Christ did not hate, he loved; and if we claim to follow him, we too must love, not hate.
P.S. Check out Part 2 of my blog series, The God Delusion, here.