A few years ago, I tried to explain racism to my kids. I defined racism as the belief that races are not distinct equals but that one race is better than another. I walked through the ugly American history of white people owning black people. When I finished, my daughters looked at me and asked, “Daddy, why?”
I asked myself a similar question the other day. Why does racism still exist? Why, after all of our prayers and progress, do so many people harbor prejudice in their hearts? Why would any Christian come to the conclusion that some races are better than others?
After studying Paul’s words in Romans chapters 1-3, I think I found an explanation. Because “they” don’t sin like “us.” In Paul’s day, the Gentiles didn’t sin statistically like the Jews. They tended toward pagan idolatry and sexual immorality. The difference, however, led many Jews to a feeling of superiority. It led to racism. Paul, in turn, had to spill major ink to prove that all people, regardless of race, are sinful and need the gospel of Jesus’ unconditional love (confer Romans 1:18–3:20).
Allow me to warn you gently about the same temptation today. Statistically, some groups commit certain sins more than other groups and vice versa. That reality makes a feeling of superiority so very, very tempting. So, when you feel that temptation, go back to Paul’s words and remember this: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace” (Romans 3:23,24).