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When it comes to a marriage involving two different skin “colors”, there remains in Western culture a basic intolerance. Just how should a Christian approach the topic?
If there is truly equality between all people groups, then so-called interracial marriage should not be a problem.
“I’ll be the perfect hostess when you come to my house, but she and I will never be friends. And your children will always have those eyes.”
Such were the words from my friend’s grandmother when she learned of his plans to marry his Japanese girlfriend. That was over 20 years ago. While statements like this are less common today, a strong anti-Japanese sentiment certainly existed in America, especially after World War II. During that time, so-called mixed marriages between a Japanese and a non-Japanese American were greatly opposed.
Times change, and today such marriages are usually accepted without question. However, when it comes to a marriage involving two different skin “colors,” there remains in Western culture, as has been true for generations, a basic intolerance of a marriage between so-called white and black—usually called an interracial marriage. Just how should a Christian approach the topic?
From a biblical perspective, all humans are descendants of one man and one woman—Adam and Eve (1 Corinthians 15:45; Genesis 3:20). Thus, if the Bible’s history is accurate, biologically, only one race of human beings exists.
Modern observational science confirms that this is the case. When the Human Genome Project was completed in 2000, scientists announced that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome and “the researchers had unanimously declared, there is only one race—the human race.”
The report also stated: “But the more closely that researchers examine the human genome—the complement of genetic material encased in the heart of almost every cell of the body—the more most of them are convinced that the standard labels used to distinguish people by ‘race’ have little or no biological meaning.”1
This means that from a biblical and observational scientific perspective, interracial marriage is nonexistent. In fact, society should use terms like “people groups,” “cultural groups,” or “ethnic groups,” rather than “races,” when referring to humans around the world. So the question on interracial marriage that Christians should be asking is “How should a Christian approach the topic of marriage between people groups?”
Despite some Christians’ incorrect application of passages such as Acts 17:26, which has nothing to do with marriage but only the dispersion of nations over the earth, the Bible does not prohibit marriage between people groups.
However, within different people groups, certain mixes in marriage are frowned upon, to the point of some exhibiting great prejudice and carrying out severe persecution against such couples. Even in the American church, mixes of dark- and light-skinned couples in marriage are commonly frowned upon. Reasons for such prejudice include cultural differences, skin “color,” and class.
The secular world also recognizes the prejudice behind such situations. In the same report concerning the Human Genome Project, we read, “The criteria that people use for race are based entirely on external features that we are programmed to recognize.”2
From both a biblical and observational scientific perspective, interracial marriage is nonexistent.
Christians need to examine such matters from a biblical perspective, instead of blindly following their cultural programming or prejudice. From a spiritual perspective, the only two races are those who are of the kingdom of light and those who are of the kingdom of darkness.
The Bible emphasizes this by stating that a Christian should never knowingly marry a non-Christian. The principle in 2 Corinthians 6:14, referred to in Ephesians 5:21–33 and Matthew 19:4–7, certainly applies to a marriage: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (NKJV).
Thus the only form of interracial marriage the Bible talks and warns about is marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian. Even the Israelites were told not to marry the pagan Canaanites. However, a Canaanite appears in the genealogy of Jesus Christ—Rahab (Matthew 1:5). How could that be?
Obviously from the Jericho account in Joshua 6, Rahab stopped being a Canaanite spiritually and became an Israelite spiritually when she trusted in the true God. When she did this, she was free to marry an Israelite because she was then of the same spiritual race, which is what marriage is truly about.
Certainly a couple from different cultural groups needs godly counsel, as do all couples, to help ensure they understand their roles in marriage and the differences they have that could potentially cause problems. However, if a man and woman trust Christ as their Savior and believe it would please Him for them to marry, nothing in Scripture disallows this, from either a biological or a spiritual perspective.
Christians must think about marriage as God thinks about each one of us. When the prophet Samuel went to anoint the next king of Israel, he thought the oldest of Jesse’s sons was the obvious choice due to his outward appearance. However, we read in 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (NKJV).
God doesn’t look at our outward biological appearance; He looks on our inward spiritual state. And when considering marriage, couples should look on the inside spiritual condition. It is true that what’s on the inside, spiritually, is what really matters.