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Why Racism?

Why isn't there racial and ethnic harmony in the world?

Harmony in a world as wracked by tension, strife, prejudice and violence as the one we live in today? We have all seen or read about the horrors that can result when animosity escalates between people of divergent backgrounds. "Ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia, human butchery in Rwanda and other places in Africa, continued bloodletting in the Mideast, and strained race relations in scores of other countries all attest to the fact that something is dreadfully wrong with the human condition.

Wouldn't it be nice if a decree was made that all people of every country, color and creed were to respect and accept everyone else, regardless of their differences? Unfortunately, even if someone had the authority to issue such a mandate, it would never work. Simply put, righteousness cannot be legislated. Kindness, understanding and love must come from the heart, not as a dutiful response to a law.

To suddenly accept and respect someone, when you've been taught since childhood that your particular color, creed or culture are better than theirs, is no small task. It would be even more difficult to instantly accept someone you resent because you know that their people have caused yours years (or perhaps centuries) of suffering, humiliation, abuse, exploitation or persecution.

When a person has been bereaved, lost their house or land, or in some other way been the brunt of violence or cruelty perpetrated by another ethnic group, no edict is going to change the victim's attitudes overnight. Even if they wanted to love and accept others, old habits die hard, and no amount of willpower can instantly overcome deep-seated resentment or hatred.

Q: So how can prejudice, fear and distrust be overcome when these things have been ingrained for centuries?

The answer is summed up in one simple word: love! King Solomon of old, reputedly the wisest mortal to ever walk the earth, wrote, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins" (Proverbs 10:12). If you hate somebody, your interactions with them are likely to breed disagreement and conflict. But if you love them, even if they have wronged you, it's possible to look beyond their faults and accept and forgive them.

This may sound like a noble aspiration--to overlook and forgive all the flaws and failings of others--but realistically, who is capable of suddenly releasing resentment, hatred, fear or other deep-seated negative attitudes they may harbor towards individuals or entire groups of people? Most of us lack the resolve and emotional wherewithal to do that.

The good news is that despite our limited human resources, it is still possible for us to truly love, understand and accept others, regardless of their past or background. The key to such love comes from the ultimate source of love, God Himself. The Bible tells us that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is the all-powerful Spirit of love who created the universe and brought us all into being.

To show us what He is like, He came down to our level by sending His own Son to earth in the form of a man, Jesus Christ. Jesus' entire ministry was one of love. He experienced human suffering, and had great compassion on the people as He ministered to their spiritual and physical needs. He became one of us.

He taught that we could fulfill all the laws of God by keeping just one great commandment: to love. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," and "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (See Matthew 22:37-40.)

On one occasion, a self-righteous expert in religion overheard Jesus teaching this, and publicly challenged Him by asking, "Who then is my neighbor?" Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan, in which He clearly showed that our neighbor is anyone who needs our help, regardless of their race, creed, color, nationality or cultural background. (See Luke 10:25-37.)