What do Christians think of interracial marriage and why it matters?

wholechicken

[notice]A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.[/notice]

Not that this issue of race is ever far from South African minds. But I have been taken aback by race related tensions in the past month. Twitter wars, xenophobic attacks, allegations of discrimination at restaurants, schools and the workplace, and allegations of race related farm murders. There appears to be an unstoppable supply of race-related tension and strife in our land. While the mainstream media, human rights groups and political parties argue about the causes and solutions, I have a question circling my mind: What Do Christians think of interracial marriage, and why does it matter?

A useful reference for me in answering this question is the book Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian by pastor and author John Piper. I value his input on the subject for a number of reasons: He is grounded in the Bible, He sees the value of racial reconciliation for the church’s mission and its benefits to his nation and the nations, he is ‘white’ (and I am not), and because he cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be accused of being a left wing, liberal, we-are-all-going-to-heaven type. (His ‘struggle credentials’ include his longstanding voice against abortion amongst other politically incorrect positions he has consistently taken.) Why is that important you may ask? Because when it comes to racial reconciliation, generally and historically speaking, ‘right-wing’ Bible-believing evangelicals have not done so well on the diversity issue in interracial marriage, diversity of their congregations, or in speaking about racism as sin. In case you missed the first article, this column is about the whole chicken, about how the Kingdom of God is not about ‘left wing’ or ‘right wing’ issues alone, but how we can attempt to bring the Bible-based truth Kingdom of God into our world, regardless of whether society thinks this is a right or left wing issue.

Biblical support
Piper presents four biblically based reasons in favour of interracial marriage:
1. All Races Have One Ancestor, And All Humans Are Created in God’s Image (Gen 1:27 and Acts 17:26);
2. The Bible Forbids Intermarriage Between Unbeliever and Believer – but Not between Races (Deut 7:3-4; Ruth 4:21-22; 1 Cor 7:39 and 2 Cor 6:14)
3. In Christ Our Oneness Is Profound and Transforms Racial and Social Differences from Barriers to Blessings (Col 3:9-11)
4. Criticising One Interracial Marriage Was Severely Disciplined by God (Num 12)
Based on these Scriptures, Piper goes on to add that the consistent prohibition in the Bible is not colour mixing, but one between those who believe in Christ, and those who don’t. Rightly so, he says, “if the great ground of our identity is not our ethnic differences but our common humanity in the image of God and especially our new humanity in Christ.” At this point, I would add that these external features from which we mistakenly derive our primary identity and sense of significance from, are not our primary essence.

As a result, while interracial marriage (based primarily on skin colour and other externalities) is still such a big issue for us, it is a non-issue for God. In as much as He did not consider external appearance as a fitting attribute for leadership, it can also be argued that He does not consider external appearances (skin colour, hair type, accent and more) as an important characteristic for the suitability of marriage: 1 Sam 16:7 reads But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” How different we are to God. For us, these are so important that inheritances are lost over this, and family members disowned, not over issues of character and faith, but externalities that we find uncomfortable. But God does not merely think that external appearance is unimportant. Num 12 records that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Aaron and Miriam, because Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. (Num 12:1). Biblical scholars agree that Cushite people were known for their black skin (see Jer 13:23), thus making it quite clear that Moses married a Black African woman (maybe our children’s picture Bibles might even look a bit different if we applied this to them?!), and that this interracial marriage was the source of their accusation against Moses.

Christ-centered heart change
Beyond all these arguments, does what I really think about interracial marriage matter so much? Piper thinks so. He writes: “…I would argue that opposition to interracial marriage is one of the deepest roots racial distance, disrespect, and hostility in the world. Show me one place in the world where interracial or interethnic marriage is frowned upon and yet the two groups still have equal respect and honour and opportunity. I don’t think it exists. It won’t happen. Why? Because the supposed spectre of interracial marriage demands that barrier after barrier must be put up to keep young people from knowing each other and falling in love…and as long as we disapprove of it, we will be pushing our children, and therefore ourselves, away from each other. Piper concludes: Separation has never produced mutual understanding and respect. It has produced ignorance, suspicion, impersonal stereotyping, demeaning innuendo, and corporate self-exaltation. Are there challenges for an interracial marriage? Absolutely. Conversely, is there the possibility of prejudices being removed and reconciliation becoming a reality? If we have Christ, that is a very real possibility. And it is this Christ-centrered heart change of individuals towards others, that can serve to glorify God, spread the Gospel and heal our nation more than the political correctness, quota regulations and twitter wars.

9 Comments

  1. What a well written article, and thoroughly grounded on Scripture. Thank you for contributing it.

  2. TOTALLY AGREE – racism is SIN; like spitting in God’s face, who is the Creator of all, and telling Him some of His creations are inferior or whatever. God help us !!!

  3. Thanks for your comments, much appreciated!

  4. Thank you, a good article. Yep, in realty, there certainly are challenges in an interacial marriage. However, I agree as Christians, we have to be completely tolerant towards our neighbours.

  5. I do not agree. Why did God in His Wisdom create different races if He had not specific tasks for each of them. I believe that each of His creation deserves respect from the other what about ,apartheid WITH respect”?

  6. As a husband in an interracial marriage in SA, I totally agree with the sentiment expressed 🙂

  7. Lulu, I understand what you are saying; but why would God applaud Apartheid or the concentration camps of the Boer in the Anglo Boer war, orthe Jewish concentration camps.

    Clearly the bible states how God is not a God of division and does not condone sin. We as Children of Godare washed clean by the blood of Jesus and sin no longer has a hold on us.

    Apartheid was created through a selfish nature and one of division, not unity. Where in the bible does the “pencil test” qualify? Where does it say that black people are less intelligent than white? If so, why would my black friend score in her 80’s and 90’s for Mathematics tests and I as a white person needs to do Mathematics literacy in order to pass.

    In the old testament there were differences in race. A specific race was told and destined to be the water carriers and slaves. Later on in the bible, Jesus asks a non Jewish woman at the well to give him water. He also clearly invites her into the kingdom by telling her that if she drinks of his water she will never be thirsty ever again.

    God judges the flesh, not the spirit.

  8. I mean God judges the spirit, not flesh. God sees us as one. As his bride. In the past we were all ( whether you were German or Greek and thought you were the supreme race; or black who was labeled as the minority race because of the labeling theory and binary coding which is just just a way for one race to have their story told and to be the grand narrrative), you were still a GENTILE.. A filthy, sinful person in comparison to God’s chosen: the Israelites.

    Now, with Jesus, if we believe, then we are His children covered by the blood of lamb.

    GOD loved the WORLD so much that he gave his only son so that WHOEVER believes will will not perish but have eternal life.

    We need to stop fighting against God’s perfect will for our lives and say “God if it is your will let it be. Let me see through your eyes, feel through your heart and hear through your ears”. When we come with an open heart to receive we might be surprised with what God blesses us with. Whether a black or white or Asian spouse, if it is the person for us from God we need to understand this : “our wants are imperfect whilst God’s plans for us are perfect. I’d rather have the closest thing to heaven than the nearest thing to hell”. We need need to stop meditating on the differences between us and other people and start meditating om the Will of God and what God wants for us; actively praying and asking God to reveal his Will for us, open doors which lead to his perfect will, and close doors which don’t. Where God opens a door, nothing can shut it… but make sure that it Is of God and from him. Nobody should try to be a patriot and marry someone in the name of interracialty when that person is clearly not meant for you. Just have an open heart and ear to God. If God has a spouse for you of a different race, you will see it working out in the long run; not because of their colour but because of their spirit and closeness to God.

  9. Someone if bound to shoot me down for this; however, I would find more difficulty with cultural background than with race. The inner person is far more important that the outward color etc..
    In the same way in which it would not have worked for me to marry someone who did not believe in God or did not love nature, as a white English speaker, it would be easier for me to relate to a black person who had been brought up in an English cultural environment that to a white Afrikaans person, as our worldviews are so different…