As we reflect on the Civil Rights Movement this month, you may be wondering how a Christian should view the history of African-Americans in our country. Should we be angry that such injustices ever occurred in the first place? Or should we work to accept it as part of the bigger plan and keep moving forward?
Let’s take a look at the Civil Rights Movement through a biblical lens.
Slavery and the Bible
While the Bible does address the relationship between slaves and their masters (a commonplace issue during that era), it adamantly condemns kidnapping (Ex. 21:16; 1 Tim. 1:8-10), racial prejudice (Gal. 3:28), dishonest business practices (Prov. 20:10), enforced segregation (Gal. 3:29), and murder (Ex. 20:13).
American slavery was an atrocity that was completely unsupported by scripture. Even after the slaves were emancipated, ungodly discrimination against them continued in the form of separate drinking fountains, separate bathrooms, and separate schools — not to mention the violence inflicted upon them. African-Americans were looked upon as inferior to white people — a perspective of prejudice that is wholeheartedly denounced by God.
The Civil Rights Movement: Biblical or Unbiblical?
Equal rights for all. Humane treatment for all. Equal opportunities for all. Not for some; for all. Does this sound like something the Bible supports? Of course it does! James 2:1-7 explicitly forbids discrimination of anyone based on their appearance or demographical status.
It seems certain, then, that the civil rights movement was a biblically-supported revolution. While there were certainly aspects of the movement that may have deviated from the core of godliness, the motivation behind it lined up perfectly with the heart of God.
The importance of equal rights, slowly changing a corrupt government through patience and grace, and enduring verbal and physical attacks for one’s biblically-founded beliefs are all things we see clearly being played out in scripture.
The Value of the Individual
Every person on earth is created in the image of God. This doesn’t mean we physically look like God; it means we were created for eternity with Him. We have souls that will live forever after our bodies die.
When we as a nation recognize the civil rights of the individual without discrimination, we are recognizing our God-given equality because of our status as image-bearers of Christ — that none of us is better than another simply because of our skin, our heritage, or our social status.
This month, as we reflect on the Civil Rights Movement, let’s remember that true freedom comes from our status in Christ.