Does the Bible Forbid Interracial Marriage?

Last week, a venue in Mississippi denied service to an interracial couple seeking to be married there because interracial marriage, the venue owners claimed, violated their Christian beliefs. Just two weeks ago, someone asked me if interracial marriage is sinful because they had been told the Bible forbids it. I hear this question (or statement) far more often than I would like, so let’s put it to rest. Does the Bible forbid interracial marriage? Do interracial relationships violate Christian values? America has more than its fair share of problematic attitudes and half-baked opinions when it comes to questions of race, but we want to base our answer to the above questions in truth, and truth is found only in God and His Word, so let us look not to what our ancestors said, or what voices in society say, but to what Scripture says.

Does Scripture Forbid Interracial Relationships?

One of the most common defenses from people who believe the Bible forbids interracial marriage comes from Deuteronomy 7:3-4. Speaking of the nations and people groups surrounding Israel, God commands:

“You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.”

This is a flimsy justification at best for denying interracial marriage. This passage is indeed a prohibition of some marriages, but not because of race. Jews were not forbidden to marry Hittites, Canaanites, and the rest because of racial conflict, but because of spiritual conflict.

“You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.”

This is the reason these marriages were forbidden. These cultures worshipped false gods and God knew, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). We see proof of this most powerfully in the life of Solomon, who did great things in service of the One True God at the beginning of his reign, but was soon led to tolerate and even promote idol worship after marrying women from outside Israel. (He also married 700 of them, but that’s another problem.)

So Deuteronomy reveals that God forbids certain marriages because of spiritual differences, but not because of racial ones. Maybe that’s not enough evidence for some, so let’s look at one of Paul’s comments on marriage, also from 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul writes,

“A wife is bound to her husband long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”

Note that there is only one restriction here on what kind of man the woman in question is allowed to marry: They must be married in the Lord. There is no restriction on race, nation, language, or any other defining factor. The only marriage forbidden here is one between a believer and an unbeliever. To summarize, there is no restriction found in Scripture that forbids interracial marriage.

Why Racism Offends God

“That’s all well and good,” some might say, “but the fact that Scripture doesn’t forbid interracial relationships doesn’t necessarily mean racism is sinful.” The truth of the matter, however, is that racism of any kind is sin. How do we know? Again, we want to ground ourselves and our reasons in truth, so here are 6 Scriptures proving that racism is sinful and offensive to God.

  1. All races have one ancestor and are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27, Acts 17:26). This knowledge, that we are all descended from one man (Adam), and moreso that we are all created in the image of the True God, places us all on equal footing. Racism tries to dehumanize a people, removing their status as image bearers of God. Scripture shows us that no one ethnicity, language, or skin color is more valuable than another or better equipped to worship God and receive salvation. There is one human race.
  2. We are all sinners, equally cursed by the fall (Romans 3:9-20). Paul speaks here explicitly on the topic of Jews vs. Greeks, but the same truth applies to all races: We are all equally broken by sin and guilty before God. No race is better or more righteous than another.
  3. Believers are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). In Christ, God has created a new race, what Peter called a “chosen race” in 1 Peter 2:9. In this race, Paul writes, distinctions of ethnicity, language, or gender do not separate. They are not abolished, as all believers maintain these things, but our Christian identity supersedes all these things. We are one race in Christ.
  4. Partiality is a sin (James 2:1, 8-9). James is one of my favorite authors because he is so straightforward. Here, James leaves no doubt about the sinfulness of showing favoritism to one person and disdain to another because of external qualities like wealth, status, or power. The same concept again extends to racism. Partiality like this is sinful because it violates the command Jesus gave to love our neighbors as ourselves. You cannot be racist and honestly claim that you love your neighbor and do not show partiality.
  5. Moses’ sister was punished (in part) for racism (Numbers 12:1-10). While traveling in the desert, Miriam, Moses’ sister, took issue with his choice of wife, a Cushite. Cush was an area below Ethiopia, in Africa. We know the problem with Moses’ marriage was not the spiritual one God spoke against in Deuteronomy, because God did not condemn Moses for his marriage. Instead, we are forced to conclude that Miriam took issue with Moses’ wife because she was not a Hebrew. And while it is true that the bulk of Miriam and Aaron’s rebellion against Moses was over his position as God’s honored prophet, Scripture clearly points out that she chose to open her confrontation with her dislike of Moses’ wife. In response to this rebellion, God curses Miriam with leprosy and she is forced to leave the Israelite camp for seven days until she is healed. While her punishment is not only for her racist attitude, God clearly doest not appreciate her criticism of Moses’ wife and He himself offers no condemnation of their marriage.
  6. All races will worship God before the throne (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-12). In John’s glorious picture of the throne room of God, he twice notes that people from every nation, tribe, and tongue are gathered together in worship. All are bowing before God and all are singing the same song proclaiming His holiness. No one race is elevated above another and none is excluded. If we will be one people in Christ in eternity, we must begin to see ourselves as one people in Christ on Earth.

As we have seen, not only does the Bible not forbid interracial marriage, it condemns racism in any form. So rather than rejecting interracial relationships, we should embrace them as a beautiful product of the diversity God has created, and rather than rejecting any person on the basis of race, we must embrace them as equal members of our one human race.

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Jarrod Horne

Jarrod Horne is the Minister of Students and Discipleship at Sixth Street Baptist Church in Alexander City, Alabama. He is passionate about exalting Christ through preaching and teaching, equipping Christ-followers to grow and influence their environments, and encouraging people to explore the depths of the Gospel. Jarrod is pursuing his Master's in Preaching and Pastoral Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a graduate of Auburn University. He and his wife, Amanda, are raising three children: Levi, Rachel, and Miriam.

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