The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Ethnic Hatred Justified?
HOW would you feel if you were thought of as devious, violent, stupid, or immoral simply because you belong to a certain ethnic group?* Surely, you would resent it. Sadly, that has been the experience of millions of people. Furthermore, throughout history countless innocent people have been abused and even murdered, merely because of their race or nationality. Indeed, most of the bloody conflicts going on today are rooted in ethnic hatred. Yet, many who support such violence actually profess belief in God and the Bible. And there are those who claim that racism is here to stay—a part of human nature.
Does the Bible condone such ethnic hatred? Are there circumstances that would justify hating those who are culturally or racially different? Is there any hope for a future without ethnic hatred? What is the Bible’s viewpoint?
Judged by Their Deeds
A superficial review of God’s early dealings with mankind might lead one to a wrong conclusion—namely, that God actually supported ethnic hatred. Do not several Bible accounts portray God as the executioner of entire tribes and nations? Yes, but a closer look indicates that God judged these peoples because of their immoral disregard for divine laws and not because of their ethnic background.
For example, Jehovah God condemned the Canaanites because of their depraved sexual and demonistic rituals. They even burned children in sacrifice to false gods! (Deuteronomy 7:5; 18:9-12) In some cases, however, certain Canaanites demonstrated faith in God and repented. Accordingly, Jehovah spared their lives and blessed them. (Joshua 9:3, 25-27; Hebrews 11:31) One Canaanite woman, Rahab, even became an ancestress of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.—Matthew 1:5.
The Law God gave to the Israelites shows that he is not partial. On the contrary, he displays genuine concern for the welfare of all peoples. At Leviticus 19:33, 34, we find the following compassionate command from God to the Israelites: “In case an alien resident resides with you as an alien in your land, you must not mistreat him. The alien resident who resides as an alien with you should become to you like a native of yours; and you must love him as yourself, for you became alien residents in the land of Egypt. I am Jehovah your God.” Similar commands are found in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Obviously, Jehovah did not justify ethnic hatred. He insisted on ethnic harmony.
Jesus Promoted Ethnic Tolerance
When Jesus was on earth, Jews and Samaritans tended to despise one another. On one occasion the people in a Samaritan village turned Jesus away simply because he was a Jew headed for Jerusalem. How would you have responded to that rejection? Jesus’ disciples may have reflected the prejudices of the day when they asked him: “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and annihilate them?” (Luke 9:51-56) Did Jesus allow his disciples’ embittered spirit to influence him? On the contrary, he rebuked them and peacefully sought lodging in a different village. Shortly thereafter, Jesus gave the parable of the neighborly Samaritan. This forcefully illustrated that a person’s ethnic background in itself does not make him an enemy. In fact, he might turn out to be a very good neighbor!
Ethnic Groups in the Christian Congregation
During his earthly ministry, Jesus focused primarily on making disciples among people of his own national extraction. But he indicated that others would eventually become his followers. (Matthew 28:19) Would individuals of all ethnic groups be accepted? Yes! The apostle Peter stated: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) The apostle Paul later reinforced this concept by clearly stating that a person’s ethnic extraction was of no consequence in the Christian congregation.—Colossians 3:11.
A further indication that God accepts people from all ethnic groups is found in the Bible book of Revelation. In a divinely inspired vision, the apostle John saw “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” who received salvation from God. (Revelation 7:9, 10) This “great crowd” will be the foundation of a new human society in which people of all backgrounds will coexist peacefully, united by their love of God.
In the meantime, Christians do well to resist the urge to judge others because of their ethnic background. Viewing people as individuals, the way God does, and not just as members of ethnic groups is just and loving. Is that not how you want to be viewed? Jesus aptly admonishes us: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) Living without ethnic hatred is refreshing. It results in greater peace of mind and peace with others. More important, it brings us in harmony with our impartial Creator, Jehovah God. What a compelling reason to reject ethnic hatred!
“Ethnic group” as used in this article denotes people who share a similar racial, national, tribal, or cultural origin.