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‘The Times They Are a Changing’ – The Image of God and the Immorality of Discrimination


Dr. David Watson

These are amazing times we are living in. Some people see them almost as apocalyptic. Others see them almost as cataclysmic. Still others as the beginnings of a great spiritual awakening. However we see these days, one thing is for certain. In the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changing.” The unjust horrific murder of George Floyd by a rogue cop is impacting our world even as we speak. Yes, the times they are a changing.

In the spirit of dialogue let me begin by asking a simple question. “Is it morally wrong to discriminate against someone because of the color of their skin or their ethnic origin?” I hope you are saying right now, “You got to be kidding me, that is not even a serious question. OF COURSE IT IS!!!!” I agree whole-heartedly with you so let me move to my second question. “Why is it morally wrong to discriminate against a person because of the color of their skin or their ethnic origin?” Besides being against the laws of the land there must be some other reason.

I am sure that one answer might well be that it is enshrined in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal in the eyes of their Creator and that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But what if you don’t live in America with its Declaration of Independence and Constitution. What if you live in India where the Caste System still dictates much of what you can and cannot do? What if you live in Afghanistan where the Pashtun’s are guaranteed a better life than the Hazara’s just because of their ethnicity. What if you don’t have a Declaration of Independence or Constitution like we do here? Is there another reason not to discriminate? Is there another reason it is morally wrong?

I suppose you could argue that we should not discriminate based on the color of one’s skin or their ethnicity because we have now evolved to such a degree and are so enlightened that we know it is wrong. If you think that please understand that the very foundation for the concept of the races and the superiority of one race over another is based in the Darwinian Theory of Evolution and the concept of the survival of the fittest. Beyond that, what can we say regarding the most educated, the most sophisticated, the most enlightened among us on this earth who still see others as inferior to them based on their ethnicity or their skin color? How come their enlightening failed to enlighten them?

I would argue that the correct answer to question of why we should not discriminate based on the color of one’s skin or their ethnicity is that God’s written revelation, the Scriptures, teach us that we are all created in the image of God. Those same Scriptures teach us that because we are made in His image, we have equal value in the eyes of our Creator. This belief is foundational to Jesus’ teaching that we should love our neighbor as ourselves and that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. It was and should be why we condemn discrimination at any level in this country we live in as well anywhere else it is found.

Having said that, these same Scriptures teach us of the depravity of the heart of people. Beyond the question of why we shouldn’t do it is the question of why we do it at all. The answer is that the hearts of men and women need transformation. We are broken people. We have not done enough to change the habits of people by law with reference to this issue. We have done some things but not enough. The deeper problem though is the heart of the individual. It is the Christian message of forgiveness and radical change through becoming followers of Jesus Christ that gives us authentic hope for personal and systemic change.

We live in amazing times but they are also very frustrating times. Jesus Christ and His Church have the answer to what we are presently facing. That answer is found in the Christian worldview and being serious followers of  the words of Jesus Christ. However, the world we live in “ain’t buying what we are selling.” Please remember that as we are doing our prophetic duty to decry injustice and discrimination  that our condemnation is wanted and welcomed. However know also that our analyzation of the problem and solutions to resolve the problem are not.

We live in a post Christian World. We are becoming more and more a secular society. Because of this, we will have to earn the right to be heard on this issue. One major reason our society doesn’t believe we have answers is because we haven’t lived the answers. Part of living the answers will be the prophetic ministry of standing against injustice and discrimination. A greater part of living the answer will be the patterning or modeling how people should be treated as we live our lives as citizens of the kingdom of God.

We cannot model or pattern how people should be treated if certain things remain  the same.  This cannot be done if 11:00 AM on Sunday’s remains the most segregated hour in America. This cannot be done if local churches remain only one hue. Did not Jesus say His house was to be a “House of prayer for all nations.” This cannot be done if there are not people of color in leadership roles in churches and, in particular, in evangelical churches. This cannot be done if we don’t abandon the “Homogenous Unit (One People Group) Church Growth Strategy” taught in so many seminaries and embrace a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural model.  Seriously, didn’t Jesus command us to make disciples of all ethnic groups?

Over thirty years ago I left a ministry position in Virginia to come to Staten Island to pastor the church I still have the privilege of serving. Humanly speaking my family and I left the warm faith community we were part of for many reasons. One of them was that we didn’t want our kids to grow up in the environment of a strictly white church. When we came to Calvary Chapel those many years ago it was diverse. Today it is even more diverse. People from over 20 different nations worship with us on any given Sunday. My family and I are so rich and blessed for this experience. We can’t imagine it any other way.

It grieves and worries us to think that the young people in our church may be hassled or worse because of the color of their skin. It makes us sick to think that the people we know and love are often discriminated against. It grieves us to know that there are professing Christians who would never think of attending our church because it is so diverse or because it is in such a diverse neighborhood. We and our leaders have tried our best with God’s help (but imperfectly I am sure) to make sure that in our faith community we treat everyone as though they were made in the image of God. We seek to promote people in leadership who are qualified without looking at the color of their skin. We seek to make disciples of all nations because that is our charge. We try to welcome and love everyone regardless of what they look like because we all are valued by God.

Heavenly Father, please help us to see others as though we were looking through Your eyes. We know that Your heaven is made up of peoples from every nation, tribe, and language. We just are trying to get a little taste of it here on earth. Help us Lord, please help us.

Dr. David Watson is the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Staten Island. This article was reprinted from his blog,  https://nycshepherd.com/.