Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)
There are two points Christians must understand about the creation narrative regarding the issue of race.
First, Adam and Eve represent the origin of all people. The Bible did not introduce humanity through the creation of a special race of people. Rather, the first human being brought into God’s narrative was simply called ‘Adam,’ which translates as humankind. The division of humankind into peoples and races was not discussed until Genesis 10. So Adam and Eve represent ALL people, not just some people.
Second, the creation narrative talks about God making Adam and Eve ‘in the image of God.’ This imaging of God refers to the 1) mental and spiritual faculties we share with God, 2) our appointment as God’s representatives on earth, and 3) our ability to relate to God and with each other. Because every human being finds their origin in Adam and Eve, all humans are created in the image of God.
Professor of Biblical Studies and author J. Daniel Hays says it this way in his book From Every People and Nation:
‘Racism or the presupposition that one’s own race is superior or better than another is a denial that all people have been created in the image of God. In short, racism from the Christian standpoint is a response that violates the equalitarian principle implied in the biblical doctrine of the imago Dei.’ (2003, p. 50)
To summarize according to Genesis 1, human value comes from every race and people finding their origin story in Adam and Eve. All people have value because we share the same origin: God Himself. Again, all humans were created in the image of God. This is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian. Every person—born or unborn, abled or disabled, young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy, no matter their ethnicity—is made in the image of God.
Because of our racialized society, Christians cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the negative impact racism causes ethnic minorities in our country. The creation narrative has far-reaching implications for how we all view one another. Our treatment of one another should be marked with dignity, value, and respect. Not only is the oppression or unfair treatment of someone of another race an affront to God, so is characterizing, mocking, and dismissing them. Put plainly, to belittle a person created in the image of God for any reason—including their race or ethnicity—is to belittle God. So instead of belittling, we as Christians need to start dignifying. Instead of characterizing, let’s start listening. Instead of fearing, let’s start respecting all people as equal image bearers. In the end, this is a God issue. As Christians, we can’t afford to say ‘Race is a topic that’s dividing and controversial, so let’s just not talk about it.’ What you believe about race communicates what you believe about God.
Now let’s look at our eternity. Revelation 7:9 attests that we are moving toward a multi-ethnic eternity.
‘After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.’ (Revelation 7:9 ESV)
Revelation 7:9 is important for all Christians. It testifies that race isn’t something God considered exclusively in the creation narrative. It is a value that God will continue to emphasize forever. It is powerful because it is an image of a guaranteed coming reality: we are moving toward a multi-ethnic eternity. This image is not hypothetical but a blood-bought promise of our anticipated eternity. Christ shed his blood for a people who all originated from Adam and Eve and who will look, sound, and speak differently forever.
For many Christians, though, this text in Revelation is a needed wake-up call to examine our current life, relationships, circles of influence, and social networks. Does the view you hold practically impact your actions? Consider if your day-to-day life reflects in any way the multi-ethnic future you’ll have in eternity with King Jesus. Whether you fall closer to the missionally-minded view or the church-as-a-family view, if you are only spending time with people who look, sound, speak, act, and believe like you, your life does not reflect our future reality.
Additionally, for many people, Revelation 7:9 serves as a soothing balm on the one thousand racial cuts experienced within the church and broader society. Minority brothers and sisters, has anyone ever told you that you reflect the image of God exactly as He’s made you? Your African American, Latino, Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern ethnicity is not a hindrance but an enhancement of God’s goodness and creativity. Take heart! Eternity will be multi-ethnic, and Jesus died for your sin and rose again to ensure you will be there.
Finally, not only should our minority brothers and sisters find hope and joy in this future reality, but our white brothers and sisters should also find comfort in it, too. The promise of a multi-ethnic eternity doesn’t mean God is including people of color in a majority white heaven. It means the blood of Jesus covers the spectrum of races and ethnicities from all times, cultures, and places.”
We encourage you to dig deeper into the biblical truths surrounding race and ethnicity via “Experiencing the Bible in Color.” This six-week study and biblical survey is designed to help small groups understand God’s heart about race and multi-ethnicity within His church. As tensions and divisions along racial lines continue in American society, it is essential for Christians to know God’s heart on this issue and to live in line with it.
In “Experiencing the Bible in Color,” you’ll walk through key Old and New Testament passages to gain a holistic understanding of race in the Bible. You’ll also find action steps for pursuing a diverse life in the here and now that reflects the diverse eternity we will enjoy in the future.
For more information on “Experiencing the Bible in Color” or to download the free resource, please click the button below.
Explore 'Experiencing the Bible in Color'
If you have questions about this resource, please reach out to your congregation pastor or connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is our joy to be present with you as we seek to love our city through listening, learning, and lamenting in our pursuit of racial reconciliation.