This post is based on my YouTube teaching series, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Interracial Marriage? I have embedded those teachings at the end of this article.
In an age where British royalty married a mixed race woman from Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine that there are people who still believe that interracial marriage is a controversial idea.
But then.... you get people saying things like this. This woman tried to run for city council in Michigan, by the way.
While the vast majority find such statements to be quite backward, I think few stop to ask the question of why do we consider these statements to be repulsive? Although the U.S. is in a cultural moment where interracial marriage is legally allowed, it hasn't always been that way (see part 1 of my teaching series below). Many would chalk this change up to "progress" or moral evolution. However, that's really just a euphemism for "a majority of us have changed our minds."
I don't think many Christians have an awareness that there is actually a theological case to be made for interracial marriage. Interracial marriage isn’t just a nice idea of progressivism. I actually believe the Christian worldview uniquely provides a theological foundation for interracial marriage. It rests on three points.
Unity of the Races
1. The Bible teaches that all races are unified by the fact that all humans share two common ancestors, Adam and Eve.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
A couple chapters later, the text describes the formation of the first woman:
Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
Later, when we turn to the New Testament, the apostle Paul preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. As part of his case for the universal need for Jesus as a Savior, he builds his case based on the Genesis creation account. He says this:
From one man he [the Creator] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
Why does Paul mention the first human within the context of a Gospel presentation? I realize this is a bit of a speculation, but I think that Paul may have been explaining how the Christian worldview directly confronts the ethnocentric sensibilities of the Athenians. In effect, he is telling these proud Greeks, "Those barbarians out there are part of your extended family. You are all part of one race, rooted in one great, great, great grandfather. So, if you’re going to come to believe in Jesus as your Savior, you need to know that part of the deal is knowing that there is only one race and that’s the human race."
2. The Bible also teaches that all races are unified by the fact that all humans – and only humans – are created in the image of God. As beautiful as it is to appreciate a sunset, or enjoy our pets, only one of God's creations has been created in His image: humans. This feature binds us together and is the source of dignity, value and worth for all humans. This is the theological foundation for the idea of "human rights."
A New Humanity
Throughout Scripture, the Father is working on a plan to create a new way of grouping humanity, but it's not fully revealed until Pentecost (Acts 2). Because of the work of Jesus, there is now a new identity that connects God’s children together through Jesus Christ. This new identity is even more foundational than our race because it’s not just expressed in the physical realm. It is a supernatural identity that is created in the spirit realm and expressed in the physical realm through the existence of the global church. Those people who place their trust in Jesus and are filled with Holy Spirit, now form a new humanity.
Here are a few key Scriptures to support this idea.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
In Christ, ethnic and social differences cease to be obstacles to deep, personal, intimate fellowship with each other. God is forming an entirely new nation of people who are united by critical unseen realities.
"Here [in the body of Christ] there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
In other words, those things which are seen by the world as significant physical and religious and ethnic and traditional distinctions take a back seat to a greater reality, which is our spiritual connection through Jesus.
Paul makes a more extended comment about the end of racial divides in the church in Ephesians 2:11–22.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
When we get to the book of Revelation we see a series of verses that describe God’s people as consisting of people from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 says that Jesus’ blood “purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” The racial and ethnic diversity of the new creation will be proof that the Great Commission has, in fact, been fulfilled. The Gospel reached the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:19).
Jesus is building a new humanity through His church. To make racial and ethnic distinctions as a source of division in relationships is to oppose the truth of what God is creating in Christ. When we become Christians, racial and ethnic distinctions ought to take a back seat to our identity in Christ. In other words, I don’t think of myself as an American first, or a white person first or a Dutch person first. I think of myself as a Christian first. And when I look at other Christians I see them FIRST as brothers and sisters, not through the lens of their race.
The Forbidden Marriage
A key stipulation to identifying a qualified candidate for marriage is that a Christian ought to only marry another Christian. But as far as I can tell, the Bible doesn't forbid marriage between members of different races or ethnic groups.
1 Corinthians 7:39
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.
2 Corinthians 6:14
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
That was Paul’s way of restating the Old Testament law against intermarriage with pagan nations. The issue in the Old Testament wasn’t racial intermingling. The issue was faith, and the person’s allegiance to the one true God.
In light of these Scriptures, as well as Galatians 3:28, which we quoted earlier, I would argue that God’s primary concern about who we marry is that the other person is a genuine and committed follower of Jesus. Socioeconomic status or race is of no importance to God because we are all equal at the foot of the cross in terms of our need for forgiveness of sin.
I don’t see anything in Scripture that would prohibit interracial marriage. In fact, I think I can make a legitimate case can be made that the Christian worldview uniquely supports the practice of interracial marriage. Furthermore, there is a sense in which an interracial marriage, and their offspring, are a visual picture of the new creation. Because in Christ, our unity in Jesus is more fundamental to our identity than our race or ethnicity
With that said, just because interracial marriage can be holy when it is between two Christians, the reality is that we still live in a sinful world. We see at least one instance in Scripture highlighting some of the problems some people face due to people’s sinful prejudices (e.g., Moses and Cushite his wife). Any couple that chooses to get married in a culture that has a high degree of racism will likely face increased tensions at times concerning their marriage. If they are willing to endure that, then they ought to be supported and cheered on by Christian friends and family.
Let’s decide today to settle it in our minds once and for all that the controversy about interracial marriage is the result of sinful human culture. In God’s economy, there is beauty to be seen when people from diverse backgrounds display the reality that Jesus’ work on the cross is the great unifier of His people.