[This is one in a continuing series of posts on Jesus being antiracist.]
The concept of race (people being “white” or “black” as a critical part of their identity) was unknown in Jesus’ day, but what he taught and how he lived supports this statement: Jesus was antiracist. Anyone who actively works to create a culture of equality and justice for all people is antiracist, and Jesus came to do exactly that. He called it the kingdom of God – where what God desires governs the way we live together.
Every religion includes a similar statement to Jesus’ words: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” [See Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12.] These deceptively simple words destroy the foundation of racism. No one wants to be treated badly for no reason other than skin color, or because of our physical appearance to…
- Be someone’s property, to be owned by someone else
- Be considered lazy, worthless, evil
- Be thought of as “less than” other people
- Be denied the right to own property or get a job or go to school
- Be assaulted, brutalized, murdered by a mob or a police officer
No one can consciously choose to be racist who has decided to live as Jesus taught. We can do none of the above to any other person and think we are doing God’s will. Would we want anyone else to treat us this way? Of course not. Then we must choose to treat all people, whatever the color of their skin – whatever their “race” – in the way we would want them to treat us. It really is that simple.
Being antiracist includes challenging the structures and systems of our culture. That’s what Jesus’ words – “the golden rule” – do. Americans, especially, think individually. Freedom and responsibility have become an individual reality – what I do or you do – and not a communal reality – what we do together. Jesus was always communal. What we call The Lord’s Prayer is about what we do together. And this “golden rule” must be lived out in community. Jesus was not talking to individuals, but to his disciples, perhaps to the crowds of people who were there that day. He talked to them about how to live together, how to be a community. Perhaps the kingdom of God is best thought of as a community of love – where we all treat each other the way we want to be treated. Racism can never – ever – be part of that community.