Why can’t we expect non-Christian movements, even the best of them, to end racism of the heart? Because of the sinfulness of humanity. With regards to skin color, the Bible says that sooner can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots than those who are accustomed to doing evil do good (Jeremiah 13:23). Or, as Paul says, mankind is enslaved to sin, children of wrath, happily following the devil (Ephesians 2:1–3). Racism is just one manifestation of this rebellion against God.
Even the casual sports fan can no longer avoid Black Lives Matter. The letters lined NBA baselines and smothered the broadcasts. They were featured on player warm-ups and printed on the back of jerseys. The NFL has been less conspicuous, but cleats, helmets, telecasters, commercials, and kneeling still draw attention to the movement.
As I watched a football game recently, a curious phrase caught my eye: End Racism. This command stared at me from either side of the field, etched in the endzones. This struck me. Assuming the best of the many people involved in the decision, did they truly believe that they — or anyone watching — could really end racism?
I have no reason to doubt that those involved really wanted to make this world a better place. But as I watched them try, I couldn’t help but feel the powerlessness of it. What did pointing a camera at the endzone have to do with pointing people away from the heart’s lust for ethnic superiority? The call, even if it met with the sympathetic heart, did not empower anyone to go and accomplish the feat. The command read to me as “End Envy” or “Stop Lust.”
This sentiment swirls around us so much these days that I wonder if the world truly believes its own mantra — that it can, in fact, end racism. To be clear, secularism can effect change toward partial laws or economic systems or accountability for police shootings — and behind any progress on those fronts stands a loving God with common grace. Secularism can also alter political correctness and incentivize (or strong-arm) outward conformity. If this is all that is meant, my amazement subsides.
But with the lack of clarity on objective goals of various marches and protests — a point very different from the civil rights movement which aimed at ensuring just law (i.e., civil rights) — one might stand to wonder if the end isn’t really to expunge the world of ethnic lusts entirely (and this understood to be against minorities almost exclusively). Some of the demands seem to be heart demands; to think and feel certain ways.
Were the world to build a totalitarian regime, with the authority to severely punish those who do not bow to its diversity indoctrination, it still could not force anyone to love what he ought to love and hate what he ought to hate. That power belongs to Another. The change the world groans after, even on its best days, belongs to the very God the world rejects every day. He alone has the power to change hearts.
Blind Leading the Blind
Why can’t we expect non-Christian movements, even the best of them, to end racism of the heart?
Because of the sinfulness of humanity. With regards to skin color, the Bible says that sooner can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots than those who are accustomed to doing evil do good (Jeremiah 13:23). Or, as Paul says, mankind is enslaved to sin, children of wrath, happily following the devil (Ephesians 2:1–3). Racism is just one manifestation of this rebellion against God.
We think we can pick and choose our master. We exchange the truth about God for lies, refuse to acknowledge his universal reign, and then wonder how anyone would seek to exalt himself over his fellow man based on something so trite as skin color, culture, or nationality. When we think we’ve successfully dethroned God, what’s left but a game of thrones?
Ending racism is not possible for the world. The humanitarian religion can take aim for a time at systemic racism, but it will tire and move on to the new fad when convenient. No politician. No law. No march nor protest. No best resolves nor coercive measures. No amount of listening nor diversity training can end racism. As great as some of these measures can be, racism is sin, and a world enslaved to sin cannot overcome sin.
You Must Be Born Again
This makes Jesus’s way to “end racism” revolutionary: “You must be born again” (John 3:7). He begins from the inside out. You must have new loves, a new nature, a new heart.
This new heart, enthroned by God himself, inspires a countercultural love for Christians who are different from us: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
This new heart is incompatible with any ongoing practice of racial prejudice:
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8–9)
This new heart prepares us for heaven, where we will experience inviolable peace with one another: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5–6).