Bible Answer

The Bible’s perspective on race

What is the biblical perspective on racial differences? Didn't God make different races for a purpose? Should different races mix? Does God forbid interracial marriage?

Wikipedia defines the concept of race as the classification of humans into groups based on physical traits, ancestry, genetics or social relations, or the relations between them. In other words, the very concept of “race” is a man-made construct. 

Simply put, there is no objective, scientific standard for defining a "race" of humanity, because the standards we use to classify a certain race are arbitrary. In fact, it’s scientifically impossible for a doctor or scientist to identify a person's “race” solely by examining that person's DNA (i.e., there is no such thing as "black" DNA or "white" DNA, etc.).

Within normal human DNA, God has prepared the diversity of physical traits we see within the human population on earth today. Every physical trait of human beings (e.g., our skin darkness, our facial features, our hair type, our height, etc.) varies along a spectrum of diversity. Therefore, science cannot identify – much less define – a clear-cut delineation between one "race" and another.  

Instead, we only find gradual shifts in human traits between various populations of people in the world, and these differences cluster according to geography and family relationships, which themselves are based in migration and marriage patterns. For example, human DNA supports a wide range of skin color and these variations cluster by geography. Populations living in hotter climates with greater exposure to the sun tend to exhibit greater concentrations of skin pigment, while populations living in cooler climates develop less.

Such variations are a result of the normal programming found in every human being's DNA, and therefore these differences are meaningless apart from whatever arbitrary meaning we may choose to assign to them. By definition, assigning human beings to a racial group is not only subjective, it is inherently biased. No wonder sinful humanity has favored the use of racial labels to discriminate and oppress those perceived to be the enemy.

And racial prejudice is not limited to one culture or period of history. Greeks have oppressed Turks, Indians have oppressed Pakistanis, Europeans have oppressed Asians, and of course in American society, Caucasians have historically oppressed non-Caucasians, especially African-Americans. Moreover, when physical differences are harder to come by, sinful hearts will turn to other means of showing prejudice. Men have historically oppressed women, the healthy have oppressed the sick, and the strong have oppressed the weak.

In each of these cases, sinful hearts used arbitrary physical distinctions as justification for cruelty against others, and any such hatred or prejudice is sinful and unbiblical. Such sinful attitudes and behaviors have no place in the life of a Christian for they are neither loving nor godly. 

This is especially true for the believer who understands the Creation account in Genesis, since that account reminds us that all humanity descends from the same parents, as we read in Acts:

Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
Acts 17:25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
Acts 17:26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,

This single passage from the Bible renders the idea of "race" meaningless, because if all humanity descended from one man, then we are all of one race!  The physical differences that exist between any two people on earth are no more meaningful than the differences that may exist between a brother and sister in the same nuclear family. We are all literally from one family, the Bible says, and therefore, it is both illogical and unbiblical for a Christian to hold prejudice against another person because of a difference in physical features (e.g., skin color).

Christians of all people should understand that we cannot indulge any prejudice against another a person on the basis of meaningless physical differences since all humanity descended from the same two parents, and therefore any Christian harboring hateful or discriminatory thoughts toward another person for any reason is sinning and should repent. Instead, we must show love to everyone, even those we perceive to be our enemies, as Jesus said:

Matt. 5:43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Matt. 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matt. 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matt. 5:46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Matt. 5:47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matt. 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Finally, we find nothing in the Bible concerning interracial marriage, because as we just explained, there is no such thing as "race" from God’s point of view. Therefore a marriage union is possible between any adult man and woman on earth, since our physical traits are completely irrelevant to the question of who we marry.

(We should add that the Bible does require a believer to marry only another believer.)