Does the Bible forbid interracial marriages?

Absolutely not! Racist Christians used to argue against interracial marriage by quoting Old Testament passages that prohibited Jews from marrying non-Jews. This prohibition had nothing to do with race, however. In fact, there was no concept of different “races” until white Europeans invented it during the Colonial period, partly to justify their enslavement of other people groups. The Bible recognizes only one “race” — the human race.

The prohibitions in the Old Testament were given because God didn’t want his people influenced by pagan beliefs and practices. This is still a concern, which is why Paul warns Christians not to be bound together [as in marriage] with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). But this has nothing to do with “race.”

In fact, one could argue that interracial marriages manifest the Kingdom in a uniquely beautiful way. Follow me on this.

The origin of different people groups (not “races”) goes back to the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). God had to divide people by giving them different languages because, at this point in history, they were working together for evil purposes. But this judgment was always intended to be provisional. Throughout the Old Testament God looked forward to a time when all tribes and nations would come back together, united under his loving Lordship.

This dream of God’s to reunite the human race begins to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In Christ, God has torn down the walls of hostility between different people groups and has formed “one new humanity” (Eph 2:13-17). This is why people from around the globe could understand the disciples praising God in their own native tongue when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). God was showing us that, where the Spirit of Christ is at work, and where the Kingdom is being manifested, Babel will be reversed.

Since interracial marriages obviously reverse the division of Babel, they should, from a Kingdom point of view, not only be allowed. They should be encouraged.

It’s often pointed out that interracial couples may experience unique social obstacles, especially in certain parts of the country. On this basis some pastors discourage them. I strongly disagree. One can’t be an authentic follower of Jesus and not expect to confront “social obstacles” at every turn. Following the example of Jesus, our entire life is to be counter-cultural. To refrain from doing something that is loving and that furthers the Kingdom of God simply because it’s inconvenient is not the mark of a Jesus follower. If anything, the fact that interracial marriages have to confront the prejudices of our culture is one more argument in their favor.

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