For those times in American history when whites and blacks have related, several discernable patterns emerged.

First, blacks tried accommodation. This implied a minimal cultural exchange and caused the black community to divest itself of undesirable traits (in the eyes of the majority whites).

There were four types of accommodation: conquest, toleration, compromise, and conversion. None of these forms of accommodation had satisfactory results for blacks. Initially African-Americans were conquered by the whites so to speak. This continued until the Civil War when some limited toleration was practiced. But this had disastrous results for African-Americans (as we can see with the Great Migration). Compromise was the order of the day with civil rights legislation, and, again, blacks experienced very limited benefits. In the conversion phase several blacks tried to divest itself of cultural distinctiveness–like other immigrants–but, as we see in our study of the American urban community, this had limited beneficial results for the black community too. Race simply could not be overcome as a significant category, so integration inevitably lead to frustration and anger.

Identification on the basis of common oppression invites us all–white and black–to deeper water. We can find a common rubric in which to take our stand at the Cross of Calvary. Identification, then, transcends race and embraces those who make common cause with us all for combating oppression.

Paul writes that there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Paul emphasizes that three major first century social distinctions no longer matter in Christ: Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status, and Gender. And, I argue, by implication, race. First century culture, as 1990 culture is, was deeply divided along these lines. Paul stresses, “You are one in Christ Jesus . . .” The First Century Church, as I mentioned above, struggled with many problems. For instance, Hellenist widows, traditionally neglected by the Jews, were now being neglected by Hebrew Christians (Acts 6:1). Churches in the New Testament were interracial–notably the church in Antioch.

The argument that the Bible condemns interracial relationships, or race mixing, can be simplified in three basic arguments. Using the Tower of Babel story (Genesis 11:1-9), opponents to interracial marriages argue that God does not want to dilute the races. However, a careful reading of this story reveals that such a position is spurious: God separates languages not races.

Likewise, God wants to keep the races separated so that each race may distinctively offer praise in a unique manner (Revelation 1:7; 5:9). However, in fact, such passages can serve as a challenge for Christians to develop interracial churches. They clearly show that Christ will be embraced by all–regardless of race or creed.

In several places in the Old Testament, it is true, intermarriage/race mixing was strongly opposed by God and His prophets. When Moses gave the Israelites the law, he warned them not to intermarry with the unbelievers of the many nations in the land God would give them (Deu. 7:1-4). Ezra and Nehemiah challenged the people to repent over intermarriage. But, looking closer at these passages shows us that God condemned intermarriage across religious lines–not racial.

Our identity as believers is determined by our relationship with God–not by race, class, or ethnicity. But at the same time, the ethical teachings of the law and the prophets and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles clearly show that when human beings violate human relationships via prejudice, they do so at their very great peril. We see in the story of Cain and Able that we are our brother’s keeper.

When Jesus was preaching, His contemporaries saw the world divided into two types of people: Jews and everyone else. This attitude was equally present in the early Church: Peter says upon meeting Cornelius, a Roman centurion: “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to another nation” (NKJV). Gospel writers–especially Matthew recognized the tension between different races and nationalities. Matthew sees Jesus as the Jewish Messiah (Matthew 1:23) but he also showed Jesus shattering the caste system of His day. Like Jesus, the early church discriminated against infidels–not against black people. For the convert to the faith, racial and cultural differences were superseded by Christian brotherhood.

Jesus, and the early church excluded people–but only the faithless. When Gentiles at the Passover request a meeting with Jesus, He responded by telling His Jewish followers He was going to draw all peoples to Himself (John 12:32). Nothing prohibited anyone from salvation except faithlessness.

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