Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time when many people reflect on the Civil Rights Movement and the progress of social justice in America.
Billy Graham, who considered King a close friend, has answered many questions on race and prejudice. Here are some that still apply today:
Q: Can our nation overcome racism? I don’t think a week goes by without something happening that tells me I’m still a second-class citizen.
A: I know our society has made great progress in race relations during my lifetime—but you’re right: Much remains to be done.
Racism, I’ve found, is almost universal—but that doesn’t make it right. In fact, in God’s eyes racism is a serious sin. The reason is because God created every human being, and God made every one of us in His image. Yes, sin has marred and defaced that image, but no matter what our ethnic or racial or cultural background may be, we are all God’s creatures, and God has implanted within each of us a soul. The Bible says, “From one man he made every nation of men” (Acts 17:26).
Furthermore, Christ died not just for one race or one ethnic group; He died to save people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). When we come to Christ, we become part of a new family—the family of God. Now we are brothers and sisters with all who share our faith in Christ.
Will racism ever be completely eliminated? Perhaps not; racism has its roots in human pride and sin, and these will never be completely erased until Christ comes again. But that shouldn’t keep us from reaching out and trying to eliminate the barriers that divide us. Yes, laws have a place—but most of all, our hearts need to be changed, and only God can do that. And He will, as we open our hearts and lives to Christ’s transforming love.
Q: How can someone be prejudiced and still claim to be Christian?
A: Racial or ethnic prejudice is a sin in the eyes of God, and no Christian should allow his or her heart to be filled with prejudice. Prejudice and hate go hand-in-hand, and hate is the opposite of Christ’s love.
Why is prejudice wrong? One reason is because God created the whole human race, and every human being bears something of His image. The Bible says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26). When we hate someone or dismiss them as unworthy of our concern, we are refusing to see them the way God sees them.
But prejudice is also wrong because Christ died for people from all races and all backgrounds—and He did so because He loves them all. How can we do any less? The Bible tells us that Christ will be praised in heaven, “for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
Only God knows your acquaintance’s heart, and whether or not he has truly given his life to Christ. But don’t let his inconsistency keep you from giving your own life to Jesus. God loves you; He loves you so much that Christ was willing to die for you. Don’t turn your back on His love, but by faith open your heart to Christ and yield your life to Him today.
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