It’s interesting that something so commonplace and natural to me can be such a mystery to others. You see, I’m a black woman married to a white man. For many — perhaps more than would like to admit — my marriage is viewed as radical, strange, or even unbiblical. People are confused about interracial relationships and this was made clear when a question came in to John Piper’s podcast “Ask Pastor John”.
A listener wrote in to ask an important question: “Can a white woman marry a black man?” I applaud the bravery of this woman because instead of remaining confused she searched for wisdom. What may have been surprising was that the podcast generated many hits. To me this indicated that there are others who are searching for answers. And the real question is: why wouldn’t interracial marriage be okay?
Not That Long Ago
Some may think that because it’s 2014, we in the United States should be past racial confusion and prejudice. But the racial divisions in this country are deep-rooted and significant changes didn’t occur until only 50 years ago. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states until 1967. Think about that for a moment. That is the generation of most of our parents and grandparents.
John Piper vividly remembers these laws and wrote about it in his book Bloodlines. “This is very fresh historically. I spent the first eighteen years of my life growing up in a state [South Carolina] where interracial marriage between white and black was illegal. When those laws were struck down by the Loving case in 1967, I was a senior in college” (204).
Though the state did not uphold the law, South Carolina hadn’t erased the language from their constitution until 1998. So this history really isn’t far off and its effects linger on even today.
The other difficulty is that sin remains until Jesus comes and makes all things new. So besides our history, we have the battle with our sinful hearts. We have the propensity to be filled with pride and self-righteousness as we look at others who are different from us.
Creation and Redemption
But I wonder if the problem also lies in that we are simply confused about creation and redemption.
Again in Bloodlines, Piper shares four reasons why interracial marriage is permitted by God and is a positive. His reasons include:
1. All races have one ancestor, and all humans are created in God’s image.
2. The Bible forbids intermarriage between unbeliever and believer.
3. In Christ our oneness is profound and transforms racial and social differences from barriers to blessings.
4. Criticizing one interracial marriage was severely disciplined by God. (210–211)
Oh what sweet truth! God’s redeeming grace and historical gospel (his promise to Abraham to bless all nations in Genesis 12:3) breaks barriers. The likeness of Christ among Christians is bigger than anything else that could divide us.
In Christ our oneness is profound and transforms racial and social differences from barriers to blessings. That’s what my husband and I experienced. We were divided, to be sure. But our barriers had less to do with our so-called differences and more to do with our rejection of Jesus. When we first met, neither of us were Christians.
Christ was merciful to reconcile each of us to himself and then to each other. We became Christians and a few years later were married. A lot happened in-between, but what has been most profound in our marriage isn’t first and foremost that we are an interracial couple; rather, it is that we are a couple redeemed by the blood of Christ. It’s that we are brought together as one under a covenant with God and each other. That is amazing! I’d say that Christ’s work on the cross broke the barrier first between God and us, then between us racially.
And it is a blessing. Perhaps one of the most tangible witnesses of the blessing of our marriage is our two children. Each step into the public is a declaration of racial reconciliation to a world that is broken and divided. Each time we sit together in church is a reminder that God’s gospel is for Jew, Greek, slave and free. Our marriage is a blessing to me personally, but we hope it is a display of the gospel to others.
True Reconciliation and Love
The confusion about race doesn’t discourage me because I am aware of the power of the gospel. We can all be encouraged because God is in the business of changing hearts. Believing that interracial marriage isn’t opposed in the Bible isn’t a matter of salvation, but a matter of the heart. To be clear, this isn’t about preferences (a matter of attraction). We want to explore our hearts to see if there is pride, bitterness, self-righteousness and hate against our brothers and sisters in Christ.
God’s word says if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us (1 John 1:9). It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). It is here, when we begin to confess and repent, that we will see true reconciliation and love for our neighbor.
This post first appeared at desiringGod.org
Trillia Newbell (@trillianewbell) is a wife, mom, and writer who loves Jesus. She is the author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody, March 2014).