Question: "How should a Christian view apartheid?"
Answer: Apartheid is a system of segregation based on race, gender, or other factors wherein the ruling faction dominates. Apartheid is most closely associated with the former political climate of the Republic of South Africa from 1948 to 1994 in which the minority white population controlled the government. A key figure in publicizing and eventually bringing down apartheid in South Africa was Nelson Mandela.
Apartheid is considered a political word, but it still rears its ugly head in other ways. In recent years, white supremacists have gained notoriety in the United States and Europe. Fueled by hate and misinformation, white supremacy groups such as the KKK and the neo-Nazis are becoming louder and more disturbing in their threats. Media coverage seems to validate their disturbed ideology, while more and more disgruntled Caucasians join their forces. Their angst toward crime, gangs, and the welfare state may be real, but the passion is misplaced. Race is easier to identify than the deeply imbedded issues that lead to an individual’s poor choices. Rather than confront the real causes behind society’s problems, skinheads blame an entire demographic. Skin color is the lazy man’s target.
While racial prejudice has long been a part of human history, apartheid takes prejudice a step further. In South Africa, when white landowners took office, they quickly passed laws to prevent land from being sold to black citizens. They then passed laws that forced the races to live and work separately, thereby ensuring that only white landowners could hold political office. The words of Lord Acton in 1887 ring true in reference to the apartheid of South Africa: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
A Christian’s response to any form of racial prejudice is to reject it. Prejudice is part of our fallen human natures (Romans 3:23; Psalm 51:5). We all harbor bias to some degree, whether it be racial, gender, educational, or socio-economic. Exalting ourselves by demeaning others is natural, but, when we surrender to Christ, He changes our nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). What feels “normal” to us must be brought under the microscope of the Holy Spirit’s conviction and viewed as He views it. Colossians 3:9–11 says, “Put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all, and in all.”
There is no place for racial prejudice or apartheid-like thinking in the life of a believer in Christ. Racial differences are not to be condemned or ignored, but celebrated—especially within the family of God. There will be a rainbow of skin colors and ethnicities surrounding the throne of God one day, not because God tolerates it, but because He loves it (Revelation 7:9; 14:6). He made each of us the way He wants us (Psalm 139:13) and enjoys the myriad ways we reflect His glory through our physical appearances, our inherited traits, and our ethnic variations. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” One of Jesus’ deepest longings was that we “be one” as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). Apartheid destroys that oneness; therefore, a Christian should hate it as God does.