What should be the Christian response to racism? Should we respond with the usual platitudes and politically correct slogans which only serves to sweep the issue under the proverbial rug? Or, should we respond with extreme anger, unfettered hatred, and reckless passion? Christians, it must be stated, should always respond, in every situation, like Christ Jesus would have responded while He was living as a man, here on earth.
We must all agree that while Jesus, on the one hand, was as meek as a lamb, loving and full of merciful kindness, on the other hand, however, He was as bold as a lion, very daring, outspoken, and even, at times, revolutionary. He was the essence of wisdom in human flesh!
Jesus is our example of how Christians should respond to divisive issues such as racism.
Our text will take us to an actual scene in Jesus’ life when He visited the land of Samaria. Samaria was the neighboring country to the north of ancient Israel. There Jesus made contact with one of the most hated groups living near the Jews. They were hated because they were, for the most part, ancient cousins to the Jews that intermarried with various pagan races of Gentiles, and then turned away from God and from those Jews left in Israel.
This intermarriage with pagan Gentile peoples caused the Samaritans to commit idolatry and to stand in strong opposition against their cousins to the south, who returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild their ancient homeland.
This eventually led to a great rift between the two nations. To add to this, the Jews had already learned their lesson about committing idolatry from the harsh captivities they endured in Babylon and other nations; therefore, they had no dealings with the Samaritans. The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans, in turn, hated the Jews. They, literally, had rules to have no dealings, whatsoever with with the Samaritans.
With this in mind, let us consider how Jesus dealt with not only a Samaritan woman, but a woman who was, also, living in sin. Consider John chapter 4, and verses 5-32, reading from the King James Bible, it says,
(5)’Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.’
(6)’Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.’
(7)’There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.’
(8)'(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)’
(9)’Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.’
(10)”Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”
(11)”The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?”
(12)”Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”
(13)”Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:”
(14)”But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(15)”The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
(16)”Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.”
(17)”The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:”
(18)”For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”
(19)”The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.”
(20)”Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
(21)”Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”
(22)”Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”
(23)”But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
(24)”God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
(25)”The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.”
(26)”Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.”
(27)’And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?’
(28)’The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,’
(29)”Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
(30)’Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.”
(31)’In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.’
(32)”But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.”
Jesus’ Response to Entrenched Racism
As we can see from the text, Jesus had no problem breaking the traditions and rules whenever they led to the mistreatment of others. He treated this Samaritan woman as a human being, as being on an equal level to Himself, which was unheard of in His day. He did not talk down to her, as others might have done. Jesus did not even scold the woman for her sinful lifestyle.
He did, however, call her out on it, but not in an accusatory manner. Yet, Jesus was revolutionary, in that He did not care about the traditions of men, therefore he sat down and talked with this Samaritan woman.
Jesus only did the things that pleased His Father in Heaven (which is the way that we as Christians should be). That is why He could not, by any means, follow any tradition that was contrary to His Father’s commands in Heaven. Therefore, He sat down at a well in Samaria next to this single woman to minister to her. Which, by the way, was also against the rules for a rabbi to even walk near women who were not their relatives, not to mention seating down next to a Samaritan woman.
By doing so, Jesus taught us the correct Christian response to racism.
- Jesus preached with His life as well as with His words.
- He did not judge people after the flesh, but after the spirit.
- He went out of His way to show kindness to the rejected and unloved.
- He shook the halls of power with His fierce loyalty only to truth, justice, and integrity.
- He did not cover-up the truth for the so called ‘greater good,’ but He spoke Truth to the powers that be, even though it would ultimately lead to His horrific and barbaric crucifixion.
What, Then, Should be the Christian Response to Racism?
Like Jesus, we should learn to judge others after the spirit and not after the flesh. That is to say, we need to verify the fruit of their words with the fruit of their actions, and, most importantly, by the unction of the Holy Spirit, to really learn what sort of character a person has. Let us not cloud our assessment of people from different backgrounds, with traditional cruelty and mistrust that we may have been taught as children.
Remember, “we are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), Jesus called us out to be His beacons of light that reflect His love, His graciousness, and His mercy. People, who are different may be use to encountering mistreatment and cruelty, and when we treat them with kindness, are making a difference in their lives by taking a stand for righteousness and breaking the barriers that destroys people.
Consider the fact that Jesus could have harshly judged this woman, and criticized this woman, and justly condemned this woman with His knowledge of her lifestyle. He had every right to do so. Instead, He chose to minister to where this woman was in her spiritual walk. And in doing so, He taught us a valuable lesson: to take the time to minister to the rejected and to the oppressed with love and with patience, and not with unkindness based on our biases. A-MEN