For as long as anyone could remember, the racial tension existed. Where there were no lines chiseled in the dirt by the Creator, man brushed undrawn boundaries of disdain. Sure, there were those who pushed back against it, but their attempts at reform always ended when their life ended. Often the strongholds of hate and deep-rooted, sinful racism would try to accelerate the death of these peacemakers so that the effects of their reconciliation would not be lasting.
Hair-type and skin color became identity. No longer were people measured on the details of their moral character or on the fact that the red blood of all mankind flowed in their veins. Now, the level of melanin in their skin, and the tongue with which they spoke became the measure of their value. A demoralizing social structure where people with a similar skin color and language easily were understood to be in the highest caste soon became the common method of interaction.
The reigns of bigoted disunity had gripped the land of Palestine since the Great Dispersion. Eventually, one people group dominated the region, Israel; but in time even they fractured into factions of perceived supremacy. No longer would they even view people as image-bearers of God to whom the blessings of God should flow from themselves. Rather, with eyes of prideful hatred they scowled and grunted and hurried by. Anyone of the same “blood” was viewed as acceptable, but those of a different “blood” were referred to as “dogs,” “beasts,” or “outcasts” and were treated as such.
This was the way that sinful men acted. This is the way that sinful men still act. Thinking and interacting in terms of racial, social, or national supremacy, men have consistently worked, deliberately and inadvertently, to bar the joy and hope of other, “different” men.
Jesus was remarkably different. He had not come to play favorites. There was not a special race of people that He had come to save. In John 3:16, He had expressed the desires of God very clearly, “For God so loved the world.” He did not say, “The Jews,” or even, “The Americans.” He had come to save from “every kindred, tribe and tongue.” There was no racial, social, or national barrier to the work He was seeking to accomplish. Others would consistently play favorites, but He was sinless, so He never would.
In John 4, we see Him lovingly extending the offer of hope and joy to a Samaritan woman. Her perplexed response when He approached her indicates the years of injustice and mistrust that had festered in that territory for centuries. Now, He had come, breaking down the walls of sin that other arrogant men had built. He would seek to restore the relationships that had been ruined by sinful ignorance. His primary mission was not racial reconciliation; it was sin cancellation. Ultimately, He demonstrated His love for this Samaritan and the entire world when He died for her/our sins. Now, He looks to us and calls us into the same life of sin decimation.
Food for Thought: What word best describes how God views racism? Why do you think many people live and act in racist ways?