Racial Pride and Prejudice
© May 2003 by Asher Intrater
Most of us as born-again believers in Jesus (Yeshua) do not have a problem with
racism. That is a gross sin that we left behind along with lying and stealing.
However there are subtler dimensions of racial prejudice and ethnic pride that
have more of a negative influence on us than we are aware.
Recently I took part in a weeklong hike in the desert around Mt. Sinai. The trip
was sponsored by Musalaha Reconciliation ministries, and involved a group of Israeli
Messianic Jews and Palestinian Arab Christians. At one point, after traveling
on camels and climbing down some cliffs, we arrived at the biblical site of Hazeroth.
I was asked to give a brief teaching on location. As I opened my Bible, the first
verse of Numbers 12 jumped out at me, in which Aaron and Miriam complain about
Moses because his wife was a "Cushite." I looked at our dark skinned
Bedouin guide, and realized that Moses' wife was Black!
God came down in a cloud of fire and fury to rebuke Miriam and Aaron. There are
many ways to look at this passage, but I saw it then from a new angle. God was
saying, among other things, "How is it in the midst of this great prophetic
event, when I am speaking to Moses face to face, raining Manna from heaven, doing
signs and wonders; that you are focusing on the color of the skin of Moses' wife?"
1. Ethnic pride can cause us to miss major prophetic events.
Yeshua had a similar encounter with the woman at the well of Samaria. There He
began to speak with her about receiving eternal life, and her response was, "How
can you who are a Jew speak with me a Samaritan?" (John 4:9). Her cultural
background was blocking her from being able to hear what He had to say about salvation.
Israeli Messianic Jews and Palestinian Arab Christians face similar obstacles
to the gospel in our peoples. Both Arabs and Jews have a cultural wall, built
up by thousands of years, against the gospel. When we try to share with our people,
they call us Gentiles, even Nazis. When the Palestinians try to share with their
people, they are called, "Suheina" - Zionists, about as dirty a word
as you can get in their culture.
2. Cultural walls can form a strong obstacle to the gospel.
Finally Yeshua overcame her first objections to salvation. Then she immediately
switched to a rare form of religious debate as to whether temple rituals should
be performed in Jerusalem or in Samaria (John 4:20). She almost started quoting
Bible verses to Him. She may have had the right verses, but her understanding
of the meaning of the verses was carnal. She couldn't see the true spiritual meaning,
because her worldview was being colored by her racial prejudice.
Our theology is affected by our worldview, which in turn is affected by deep-seated
ethnic and racial prejudices that may have been shaped by historical events that
we are not even aware of.
3. Racial Prejudice causes wrong interpretation of biblical texts.
While everyone has prejudice in one way or another, the teachings of Yeshua challenge
us to repent of our own wrongs before pointing out the wrongs of others. We are
called to take the beam out of our own eye, before the speck in the other's eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
The problem is that it feels just the opposite to us. "They're the ones with
the beam, while mine is really just a speck." The other side's prejudices
are so big and bothersome, compared to our own delicate and discreet imperfections.
I don't want to confess my very minor racial discriminations because it might
appear to be condoning the enormous racial sins of the other group. But that's
not Yeshua's way.
The Palestinian brothers are sometimes shocked at our inability to feel the suffering
of their people and the burden they have to share the gospel to the several hundred
million people in the Muslim world. We Israeli believers are often shocked at
their inability to see the enormous fulfillment of prophecy in God's bringing
back our people from the four corners of the earth, and of the importance of Jewish
people coming to salvation as a pre-requisite for the second coming of Yeshua.
Each side has to deal with their own sins and ethnic failures. The problem for
us as Jews is that our sins are written in the Bible, for goodness sake. The Hebrew
prophets were replete with descriptions of our people as stiff-necked, stubborn,
rebellious, hard-hearted, idolatrous, adulterous, and murderous.
In the New Covenant period, we are described as the very "enemies of the
gospel" (Romans 11:28); not only have we rejected our own Messiah, but we
have done everything we could to keep others from coming to Him (Luke 11:52).
In addition, we have long interpreted the biblical concept of being the "chosen
people" in a racist way, which misses the point of the biblical covenants.
Finally, instead of being a "light to the nations," we became offended
at the thought of the gospel being spread to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21-22).
As we go to present the good news of salvation to a lost and dying world, we need
to have the humility to know that all peoples have sinned and that we have forgiveness
by the grace of God. Ethnic pride must be removed from each one of us if we are
to see the fullness of the kingdom of God.
It is God who created us in different racial groups. In each group we have a certain
destiny. In our fallen nature, our races reflect something ugly. As born-again
believers, we are to redeem the beautiful treasures that God has hidden in each
God's international kingdom is pictured as a rainbow; each people group is a strip
of color in that rainbow. We are to maintain our distinctives, yet live in harmony,
respecting and appreciating the gifts and calling in every nation, tribe and tongue.