The Law Exposes Racism As Sin

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39).

What is racism? The Oxford Dictionary of English s.v. “racism,” defines it as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior…the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

 

In response to yesterday’s column, a correspondent to the HB asked how we know that racism is sin. It is true that I assumed that we all know that racism is sin, that it is obvious on the face of Scripture but it is good to spell out the basics because in so doing we get to an even more fundamental point.

Racism Is Sin

Kevin DeYoung gives 10 reasons why racism is sin—with which I agree heartily— but I think I can name that tune in a single verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). It is one of the two commandments upon which all the law and the prophets, i.e., the entire Old Testament, hang or depend. That is our Lord’s inerrant and authoritative summary and commentary on the moral law. It requires only two things of us, love God with all our faculties and our neighbor as ourselves. Loving God refers to the first table of the law and loving neighbor refers to the second. Racism contradicts neighbor love.

What is racism? The Oxford Dictionary of English s.v. “racism,” defines it as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior…the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” This is a fine definition. The only wrinkle is the questions that are being raised about the very category of “race” as a 19th-century convention. Vincent Bacote explains some of the difficulties with this category “race” in this episode of Office Hours.

Questions about the validity of the category notwithstanding, the essential definition is sound. Prejudice is forbidden by God’s Word. If we may not say “you fool” to our neighbor without committing murder in our hearts and thus placing ourselves in danger of judgment (Matt 5:22) then surely we may not prejudge our neighbor on the basis of the degree of melanin in his skin. How should you like to followed by store security officers simply because of the way you look? That is the definition of prejudice. When people are prejudged on the basis of their ethnic heritage or their skin color, that is racism. It is, as DeYoung points out, partiality. It is a refusal to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, that is a violation of the second table of the law and that is sin, transgression of the law of God. Our confession is very clear about the definition of sin:

What is sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God (Westminster Shorter Catechism 14).

God’s Word says “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). God hates sin and it is something of which we all must repent daily, constantly. The realistic, Augustinian, Pauline (!) Christian knows his sin and confesses sins and failures. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15; ESV). That is the confession of the believer. This is how Romans 7 is understood in Westminster Larger Catechism 78 and Heidelberg Catechism 60.

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