Racial Unity

Examining the Foundations and Applications of Racial Unity in Culture and the Church



About the Course

In this course, curated by The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, we will explore key insights designed to foster racial unity in the church. Just as the gospel broke down the walls that kept Jews and Gentiles apart in the first century (Eph. 2:11–22), the gospel can break down walls of racial hostility and bring healing and unity in the twenty-first century. But that process, like any aspect of sanctification, does not happen in an instant. The early church struggled for decades and centuries with Jew-Gentile conflicts. The goal of this course is to first help learners dig into the message of Bible on the issue of race. Then, we will look at the current problem, the sins that have led to deep divides in the church. We will then look at the means for addressing that problem: theological (teaching the full import of the doctrine of the image of God), ministerial (developing biblical thinking and practices regarding diversity in the church), and practical (acting in a way that fosters racial unity in the church, a unity that spreads out into our homes and communities).

About The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC is dedicated to engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and speaking to issues in the public square for the protection of religious liberty and human flourishing. Our vision can be summed up in three words: kingdom, culture and mission.

Recommended Course Reading

The Basis: Scripture

Key Passages

Gal. 3:27–29

Eph. 2:13–19

Rev. 5:9–10

Col. 3:11

The glory of God in the preeminence of Christ in all things and racial reconciliation in the Church are inextricably bound. In the following sermon, John Piper helps us understand this beautiful and biblical truth.  

  • John Piper – The Glory of God and Racial Unity

Reflection Questions
  1. How would you make the argument to someone that each of these verses supports racial unity?
  2. What areas of your thinking need to be shaped by these verses?
  3. How is the doctrine of the preeminence of Christ in all things (Col. 1:15-23) necessarily bound to racial reconciliation in the church (Col. 3:11)?  

The Problems: Vast and Systemic

According to a recent national study, if you ask ten white evangelicals whether or not minorities are treated equally in our judicial system, seven would say that they believe that minorities are treated equally. If you ask ten minority evangelicals that same question, eight would say that minorities are not treated equally in our judicial system. How could there be such division in outlook? It’s time to ask questions and see the issues with fresh eyes. The following four videos probe some of these underlying issues.

  • Charlie Dates – The Most Segregated Hour in America: Overcoming Divisions to Pursue MLK’s Vision of Racial Harmony

  • Darryl Williamson – How Do You Respond to Someone Who Says, “I’m Not Racist; I’m Color Blind.”

  • Beau Hughes – How Can Churches Help People Address Personal Prejudice?

  • Thabiti Anyabwile – One Thing White Evangelicals Should Understand About Racial Reconciliation

Reflection Questions
  1. Do you recognize any hidden prejudice in your way of thinking about people who are different than you?
  2. Do you actively pursue friendship people who are different than you?
  3. How have you practiced listening to the concerns and sufferings of those ethnically and culturally different from you?
  4. What does it look like to actively pursue racial reconciliation where the Lord has put you at this point in your life?
  5. What ethnic barriers can you identify in your local church?
  6. In what ways does the culture of your local church encourage (or discourage) ethnic diversity?
  7. How does our personal and corporate faith as a church inform our cultural engagement in the world in pursuit of justice for all people?

The Foundation: The Image of God

Key Passages

Acts 10:27–28

Genesis 1:27

Acts 17:26

The concept of race requires an understanding about being made in the image of God. If we are going to do the work of racial unity we need a robust doctrine of the image of God. In this podcast Thabiti Anyabwile lays out what it means to be created in the image of God and how that affects our view on race and racial unity.

  • Thabiti Anyabwile – The Image of God and Racial Reconciliation: A Biblical Theology of Kingdom DiversityRuntime: 43 min

  • Rufus Smith – Prejudiced Peter

Reflection Questions
  1. How does understanding the impact of the fall help in understanding racial reconciliation?
  2. How does the killing of hostility in Christ relate to the image of God?
  3. How does the gospel necessarily inform our understanding of the image of God and racial reconciliation?
  4. If the Apostle Peter had to be corrected of his prejudice and his small view of the gospel mandate (Acts 10:27-28), how does this help create in us a healthy self-distrust?
  5. How does the gospel continuously cause us to question ourselves and our cultures status-quo?

Additional Video
  • An explainer video by the ERLC.

  • Trillia Newbell & Daniel Darling

The Means: The Church

The history of America has a long and dark history of racism. The effects of slavery and segregation are still present today–outside and inside the church. Racial unity is based on peace and brought about by peace. Because of the work of Christ, we have been reconciled back to God and reconciled to each other. In this video, Dr. Tony Evans and Matt Chandler use Scripture to discuss racial unity by highlighting its importance and the responsibility we as believers have to demonstrate that unity with each other.

  • Tony Evans – We Can Do Better

  • Matt Chandler – A House Divided Cannot Stand: Understanding and Overcoming the Inconsistencies in White Evangelicals on Racial Issues

Reflection Questions
  1. Dr. Tony Evans says, “the goal of racial unity is not sameness, but oneness”. What does this phrase mean, and how do we differentiate between the two?
  2. What is diversity? Is it biblical?
  3. How does the lack of racial unity block the witness of Christ and limit the reflection of the glory of God?
  4. How responsible is the church for the lack of racial unity in our country?
  5. How ought we to understand our responsibility in contributing to racial reconciliation dependent on the history of the ethnicity that we have inherited?
  6. How do you think racism can be seen in the local church and public institutions today?
  7. What can we do to bring the justice of Christ into the places of systemic injustice in both the local church and the public square?

Additional Video
  • From the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit on "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation"

  • Mika Edmondson explains how white Christians can stand in solidarity with minority brothers and sisters.

The Application: Church in Action

Having a correct understanding about race and why racial unity is necessary is the first step. Once this is settled, the next step is to change head knowledge to practical application in our everyday lives. The following resources teach us why racial unity is not an option but a requirement in the body of Christ and should be pursued.

  • Matthew Hall – Singing a New SongRuntime: 57 min

    On Revelation 5:9–10

  • Evangelicals and the Future of Racial Unity

Reflection Questions
  1. What does Revelation 5 tell us about how the church should be now?
  2. When we realize that racial reconciliation is not primarily about us but about Jesus, how should this change our desire and our intentionality in working towards it?
  3. What is the homogenous unit principle and how has that been problematic in regards to racial unity in local churches?
  4. In your personal life how can you actively and deliberately seek out opportunities for racial reconciliation?
  5. What does it mean to be doctrinally evangelical and how ought this definition to form living a life that pursues racial reconciliation?
  6. How can we distinguish between reluctance and resistance to racial reconciliation in the church and the public square, and how ought this distinction to inform our engagement in a way that is beneficial and persuasive?
  7. In our pursuit of racial reconciliation, it is important that we lay aside our preferences for the sake of gospel unity. What are some issues of cultural comfort preferences that you can identify in the local church that should not be confused with true gospel preservation?
  8. When we confuse cultural preferences with true Christian living, we begin to live a false gospel. How is our gospel message displayed in the culture of out local church?

Additional Video
  • Jackie Hill Perry discusses how churches can seek to uproot sins of racism and insensitivity that can persist in a church: by creating a community that values the image of God in all people.