Thabiti on Race

Thabiti Anyabwile. “BEARING THE IMAGE” in T4G Proclaiming a Cross Centered Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2009.


Picture yourself walking into a lunchroom. You enter alone. There are two tables in the lunchroom. The table on your left includes a group of people unlike you, some ethnic other. The table on your right includes a group of people ethnically like you. What would you instinctively do? We gravitate toward those we perceive to be like us. What is the mental calculus behind that gravitation? What are the mental mathematics taking place that lead to that impulse? We enter the room; we look at the two tables with the two groups, and at the speed of thought we calculate “not like me” or “like me.” Then we think, Like me; therefore safe. Like me and safe; therefore, some benefits to be gained. Like me and safe; some benefits to be gained; and therefore the likelihood of some joy and peace from our commonality. There is an opposite calculus going on simultaneously: Not like me; not safe; no benefit to be gained; no joy to share. This happens at the speed of thought for most of us.


When we walk into the lunchroom with differing groups, we want to replace that calculus with this: Descended from Adam—like me. Made in the image of God—like me. Fallen sinners—like me. It’s the emphasis on like me—the heritage we share in Adam—that begins to lay for our feet a bridge to cross over “otherness” (70)



All that we’ve said about our common ancestry in Adam is a resource available to both Christian and non-Christian alike. Our shared ancestry in Adam is a basis and resource for shared identity and understanding apart from our religious background. But for the Christian, there is an even greater basis for unity across ethnic lines and the abandonment of race as a part of our worldview and spiritual life. That basis is our union in Jesus Christ.


When the Christian walks into that lunchroom, she or he sees two groups and thinks, Descended from Adam—like me. Made in the image of God—like me. Fallen sinners—like me. If we find that any of those persons in the lunchroom are Christians, we are able to say, United to Christ—like me. Sharing his Spirit—like me. Received the promises of eternal life and everlasting joy—like me. The Scriptures tell us that in Christ we are given everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). I don’t think escaping the problems of race is an exception.  (71)



All of human history is headed to this one reality—a new kingdom of priests, one in Christ, redeemed by his blood, serving the one true and living God. If that’s where we’re headed, why not live more like that now?  (79)