Does Ethnicity Matter to Christians?

header for Does Ethnicity Matter to Christians?

Many well-meaning Christians believe that we should never talk about ethnicity. And I get it. It just seems too divisive. Why bring it up at all? And they’ll often quote a verse that comes later in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In context, Paul is making a contrast between the old covenant law and God’s new covenant promise. He’s showing that the law was insufficient to save. For Jews, the law served as a “guardian until Christ came” (v. 24). But the promise is more glorious than the law, and through faith in Christ, the Gentiles are partakers of the promise.

Paul’s Point

Paul’s point is that Gentiles are included among the people of God simply because they trust in Christ. To truly be a child of Abraham has a spiritual significance that surpasses earthly lineage. Verse 28 does not eliminate ethnic distinctions any more than it eliminates gender distinctions when it speaks of male and female. The point is that ethnicity, social, or economic status, and gender are not barriers to being justified before God through faith in Jesus. So to the question, does ethnicity matter? I respond with another question. Does it matter for what? For salvation? Absolutely not! But in order to display the glory and wisdom of God, it definitely matters that God made you Jamaican or Italian or Irish or Korean or Polish or Turkish or Taiwanese or Nigerian. Like everything else in the world, ethnicity exists for God’s glory. I wrote a song for children about this called “God Made Me and You.” On the second verse, I point them (and us) to the beauty of God’s diversity in human beings:

Just as two snowflakes are never the same
Every person is different, unique in their frame
God made them all—each kind and each sort
He made some people tall and some people short Dark skin, light skin, and all in between
In each color and shade, His beauty is seen
The Lord knows the number of hairs on your head Whether brown or black; whether blonde, gray or red What some call ethnicity and others call race
We should celebrate as a gift of God’s grace
You’re wonderfully made from your feet to your face
Yup, God made me and you![1]

No matter what our outward appearance may be, all human beings have the unique honor of being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). This is the biblical basis for treating all human beings with the dignity and respect that image bearers deserve. This is why slavery in America was evil. This is why many Christians today fight for the rights of the unborn and the elderly. And this is why the pursuit of justice for the poor and marginalized in any society is in line with the heartbeat of God (Prov. 21:3; Zech. 7:9–10).

Thank God and Glorify Him

When it comes to ethnicity, the proper response for the Christian is not to ignore it. Or gloat about it. Or be ashamed of it. Or feel guilty about it. The proper response is to thank God for it and leverage it for the glory of God. To my White brothers and sisters in Christ, please don’t tell me that you don’t see color. I know what you mean. You’re trying to communicate that you treat all people equally and that you judge people based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. That’s great. We should all do that. But God was intentional when He gave me brown skin. He didn’t give it to me that it might be ignored. He gave it to me that it would be appreciated and that He might be praised for His creative genius. So don’t rob God of His praise by ignoring it!

Whatever ethnic or cultural flavor you have, bring it to the table and offer it in service to Jesus. For me, that has looked like doing Christ-centered hip-hop. For Latino American Christians, it may look like starting a Bible study in Spanish for the immigrants in your area who don’t speak English. For Jewish Christians, it may look like hosting a Passover seder in your home and showing those who attend how the elements point to Christ. At our church, which is multiethnic, we have events where members celebrate and become educated about the cultures of other members. One of my favorites was Korean night, where some of our Korean-American members treated us to some authentic Korean barbecue and helped us understand some of the cultural nuances in the Korean film we watched. There is plenty of room for creativity here. Let us not allow the way the world has corrupted ethnicity (through the sins of either pride or hatred) to keep us from using it to glorify God.

[1] Shai Linne, “God Made Me and You,” track 3 on Jesus Kids, SDGFella Music, 2018.

For Further Reading:

The New Reformation

by Shai Linne

In the sixteenth century, the church faced a doctrinal crisis. Today, the crisis is race. We all know that racial unity is important. But...

book cover for The New Reformation