Equality for All—Regardless of Race or Nationality
Will people of all races and nationalities ever be treated as equals? Are inequalities inevitable?
“IMPOSSIBLE! It will never be realized! Equality for persons of all races and nationalities is unrealistic. There will always be inequality.” So many persons argue.
Observed the editor of the London Sunday Telegram in an article reprinted in the magazine U.S. News & World Report: “Is it reasonable or realistic for men of good will to go on assuming that black and whites, at least in the crucial continents of Africa and North America, are ever going to live amicably side by side in genuinely multiracial societies? My answer is emphatically ‘No.’ White men in predominantly black societies are almost certainly going to become underprivileged and black men in white countries are going to remain so.” In other words, inequalities are inevitable. A person, because he is of a certain race or nationality, will always be underprivileged and downtrodden, he feels. As he sees it, opportunities for an education, to obtain jobs and to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will never be equal.
Judged from human experience, this, unfortunately, seems all too true. It has long been the practice for people of one race or nationality to dominate over and even enslave people of another race or nationality. The lands of Christendom are no exception. Although Negro slavery was abolished in the United States of America over a hundred years ago, inequalities still exist. In fact, a leading religious journal, The Christian Century, lamented recently regarding the country’s churches: “Most local congregations either only grudgingly accept or positively exclude Negroes from their fellowship.” Obviously, equality is not enjoyed today.
EQUALITY FOR ALL—IN WHAT SENSE?
It is true that various factors prevent equality from being realized in a total sense, even among persons of the same race. Individuals have different dispositions, natural endowments and inclinations. Some persons, for instance, have an ear for music, a natural singing voice or a similar gift. Others are clearly not equal to these gifted persons in such achievements. Yet, on the other hand, another person may have superior aptitudes or natural skills in a different field.
Races or nationalities, too, apparently have different natural endowments or dispositions. For example, some nationalities have greater height of stature, which gives them an advantage over other nationalities in international basketball competition. So physical characteristics may sometimes create inequalities. Natural disposition and environment also seem to allow some races to excel above others in certain respects.
Although, admittedly, not all persons are equal in the strictest sense of the word, this does not mean it is not God’s will for people of all races and nationalities to enjoy eventually equal rights and privileges. True, some say inequalities are inevitable, that people will always be discriminated against because of race or national extraction. But, happily, not so! The Bible reveals that the time will come when a person, regardless of his skin color or place of origin, will enjoy the same privileges as one of a different race or national origin.
THE ATTITUDE OF JESUS
It is noteworthy that Jesus Christ, the Founder of Christianity, did not discriminate against people because of their race or nationality. True, his earthly ministerial assignment was particularly to the Jews, yet he associated with and healed non-Jews also. One example of this occurred shortly after he had given his now famous Sermon on the Mount and had entered the nearby city of Capernaum. There representatives from a non-Jewish army officer approached and requested that he heal the officer’s beloved servant. What was Jesus’ attitude?
Why, he responded to the request and promptly started off for the man’s home. Jesus was not influenced by human prejudices. However, when he got close, the army officer sent word that he was unworthy of having Jesus enter his home. Besides a personal feeling of unworthiness, the officer no doubt had in mind the discriminatory custom of the time that prohibited a Jew, like Jesus, from having social connections with non-Jews. So he asked, Would Jesus please just say the word for his servant to be healed?
This man’s confidence in Jesus’ powers—to heal even from a distance—amazed Jesus. At the same time, he was greatly moved by the man’s humility. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “With no one in Israel have I found so great a faith.” Then he said to the army officer: “Go. Just as it has been your faith, so let it come to pass for you.” And the manservant was healed in that very hour. Jesus would willingly have gone into the non-Jew’s house, yet he acquiesced and, thereby, demonstrated that the officer’s faith in his power was well founded.—Matt. 8:10, 13; Luke 7:1-10.
On another occasion, about a year later, Jesus traveled northward into Phoenicia, far beyond the borders of Palestine. There in the regions of Tyre and Sidon, “look! a Phoenician woman from those regions came out and cried aloud, saying: ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is badly demonized.’” Jesus’ God-given assignment was to minister to Israelites or Jews, as he pointed out on this occasion: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Nevertheless, he did not discriminate against this humble woman of faith, but said to her: “‘O woman, great is your faith; let it happen to you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour on.”—Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30.
EXHORTATION TO IMITATE JESUS
Often Jesus’ apostles exhorted others to imitate the fine example of their Master. For instance, in his letter to the congregation in ancient Rome, which was composed of Christians from different nationalities, the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us, with glory to God in view. For I say that Christ actually became a minister of those who are circumcised [Jews] in behalf of God’s truthfulness, so as to verify the promises He made to their forefathers, and that the nations might glorify God for his mercy.”—Rom. 15:7-9.
Jehovah’s witnesses who truly follow the example of Jesus Christ therefore do welcome people of all nationalities, treating them as equals. They imitate Jesus, who accepted people of all races and nationalities! But some persons may object, saying that Jesus showed partiality by devoting almost all his ministerial efforts toward members of his own race. Is this a Scriptural basis for our discriminating against other races or nationalities?
Not at all! Because of God’s promises regarding the Kingdom seed to the Jewish forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it was necessary for Jesus to establish “God’s truthfulness” as regards those promises by offering first to the natural Jews the opportunity to become part of the spiritual seed of Abraham. (Gen. 22:17, 18; 26:3-5; 28:13, 14) That is why he ministered principally to the Jews and why, when he sent the twelve apostles out to preach, he told them not to go to non-Jews.—Matt. 10:5, 6.
Yet Jesus held no prejudice against others, as shown by his attitude toward the non-Jewish army officer and the Phoenician woman. He loved all peoples, regardless of race or nationality. Jesus realized that, in time, the message of salvation would go out to all. In fact, in parting from his disciples, he told them that they would be witnesses of him “in all the nations” and “to the most distant part of the earth.”—Luke 24:45-48; Acts 1:8.
It was only three and a half years after his death and resurrection that the glorified Jesus welcomed the first of the uncircumcised non-Jews into his congregation. The convert was not a Greek, but an Italian—Cornelius by name. When the apostle Peter saw that God had listened to the prayer of this Gentile and had directed him to send for Peter, he exclaimed: “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.” If such peoples of all races and nationalities are acceptable to God and Christ, should they not be acceptable to us also?—Acts 10:34, 35; 17:25, 26; Rom. 3:29.
EQUALITY FOR ALL—WHEN?
Because it is God’s will, equality of rights and privileges for all races and nationalities is certain to be realized. However, it will not be as a result of any civil rights movement or present-day social reform. Prejudices and hatreds are too deeply engrained. Throughout human history man’s attempts to eradicate them have miserably failed, and continue to fail. Understandably, some human observers feel inequalities are inevitable.
Yet what man has failed to do, God will soon accomplish. How so? First, by bringing about the destruction of this wicked system of things and preserving alive only prejudice-free servants of God into his new order. Then the promise of Jesus Christ, recorded in God’s Word, will be fulfilled: “All those in the memorial tombs [regardless of race or nationality] will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) Under the righteous rule of God’s kingdom these multiracial, multinational resurrected ones will learn to live with one another in peace, free from previous hatreds and strife.
That an administration operated in harmony with the principles of God’s Word can bring about this effect is apparent by examining the present-day organization of Jehovah’s witnesses. It is a matter of public record that Jehovah’s witnesses practice brotherhood of all races and nationalities, and do not merely preach it. With genuine affection they call one another “Brother” or “Sister,” and they also treat one another as equals. To obtain a foregleam of how equality for all will be realized in God’s righteous new system of things, associate with the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses and see it in practice today.