How Jesus responded to racism

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Jesus went out of His way to break down racial barriers in His day. The racism He confronted was between Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. There was even a racial rivalry among the Jews, evident by how Nathaniel stereotyped Jesus, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). He was biased against Jesus before he even met Him.
Racism boils down to PRIDE—the ugly self-deception that “WE-are-better-than-YOU.” Remember, we all come from dirt, plus our bodies consist of about 60% water, which equals MUD! Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7). It not the container but the contents that is so valuable to God. We are all equally loved by Him and in need of His grace. Hatred has no place in the heart of any Christian. God’s view on race can be summarized in a simple song: “Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight . . .”
To be precious means “valuable, dear, beloved, important, cherished, treasured, priceless.”
Jesus dealt with racism among His own Disciples. At first, James and John were hate-filled, cold-hearted, hot-headed troublemakers. Jesus even gave them a negative nickname—“Boanerges” meaning “sons of thunder.” These brothers were loud, opinionated, and full of hot air. On one occasion, they were furious that a Samaritan village turned Christ away and wanted to call fire down from heaven to burn them up. “But He rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them’” (Lk. 9:55-56). If we harbor hatred and want to hurt people, we have the wrong spirit.
After seeing true love modeled by Christ, the disciples radically changed. Later, Peter and John returned to Samaria to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12-17). Instead of praying fiery judgment down on them to curse them, they prayed the fire of the Holy Spirit down to bless them.
Once consumed with hate, John later became known as “the Apostle of Love.”
We need a fresh baptism of love in the church and in society. Notice How Jesus broke down racial barriers:
• Jesus went to Samaria to save the Woman at the Well. Most Jews went around Samaria just to avoid “those people.” There was total segregation between them (Jn. 4:9), but Jesus had a divine appointment with a broken woman who desperately needed Him. The disciples were shocked that Jesus even spoke to her (Jn. 4:27), yet He took the time to reveal His Messiahship to her (Jn. 4:25-26). As a result, a two-day revival broke out in Samaria (Jn. 4:39-42).
• Jesus healed a Roman Centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13). There was much racial tension between Jews and Romans. The Jews despised them for occupying their land, controlling their lives, and overtaxing them. Jesus was willing to go to his house, but most Jews wouldn’t even consider going near the house of an “unclean” Gentile. The Centurion said Jesus could just speak the word only. He knew how the chain of command worked. Then Jesus commended his faith and healed his servant.
•Jesus delivered the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter (Mt. 15:21-28). Jesus went beyond the borders of Israel to meet this Greek woman. At first, He ignored her (Mt. 15:23). Then, He excluded her—“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 15:24). Next, it seems, He insulted her—“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Mt 15:26). (Jews often referred to Gentiles as dogs.) She must have been a bulldog because she refused to take no for an answer (Mt. 15:27). Jesus was so impressed with her faith that He delivered her daughter from demons.
• Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-37). Samaritans were the “bad guys” to the Jews, but Jesus made one the hero of this story to show there is good in people we may not like. Notice the priest and the Levite (two “good guys”) did nothing to help the victim. Jesus redefined who is our neighbor is—not just the person on our same street, but any person of any race who is in need.
Jesus went out of His way to include the Gentiles and break down racial barriers. After all, He wasn’t just the King of the Jews. As the Samaritans testified, “We know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the WORLD” (Jn. 4:42).

Ben Godwin is the author of five books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. You can read more articles or order his books @ bengodwin.org.