5 Proofs That You Could Be a Functional Racist

Yesterday I preached from Acts 10:1-33 at Aletheia Church. This is the part of Acts where a non-Jew takes center stage and we see cultural and ethnic barriers shattered by the power of the gospel. Peter’s racism (whether it is intentional or unintentional, it’s racism) comes out in full force, especially in v14 where He tells the Lord “By no means, Lord…”, when he is commanded by God to stop viewing certain foods (really, people) as common or unclean.

In almost the very next moment, we see God’s transforming power bring Peter to obedience, as he invites three Gentile men into the place where he was staying and then, the very next day, he is on his way to Caesarea (a mostly Gentile town) to preach the gospel to a bunch of Gentiles. This was a massive moment in the narrative of Acts. Every possible barrier between Jew and Gentile is broken down by the loving grace and truth of the gospel.

This passage got me thinking about something. I think many of us set up our lives unintentionally (but maybe it is really intentional, especially when we start uncovering the idols of our hearts – i.e. comfort, safety, self-preservation, pride, control etc.) to completely barricade ourselves against anyone who may be different than us. Think about the people in your life. Most of them are probably very similar to you. Sure, they have different stories than you, but for the most part, they look like you, have the same interests that you have, and live similar lives to you. We aren’t comfortable with the alternative. So we set up our lives to avoid the people who are different than us. Call it what you want. I call it functional racism.

Here are 5 proofs that you could be a functional racist:

1. There is nobody in your life – that you are doing life with – who is different than you (culturally, ethnically speaking).

2. You don’t really go outside of your life box that often.

Most of us tend to position our lives in such a way (the neighborhoods we live in, the places we grocery shop, the parts of the city we visit) that don’t allow for us to even really ever interact with anyone who is different than us.

3. You don’t really look for opportunities to build relationships/friendships with people who are different than you.

Building relationships take work. Because of that, we tend to gravitate towards building them with those who are most like us because it takes the least amount of work.

4. We have convinced ourselves we are better than others who are not like us by believing the stigmas and stereotypes about people.

Come on, you know we are all guilty of this. It’s called self-righteousness. And it is toxic.

5. We make excuses why we aren’t doing life with people who are different than us (i.e. “I can’t help that everyone in my life looks like me and falls within the same socio-economic category that I do.”).


The bad news is that most of us are guilty of these things in one way, shape, or form. The good news is that the gospel of grace and peace is one that has shattered any and every barrier that our sinful hearts tend to create. We need to pray that God would grant us repentance with this matter and that our hearts would be changed by the power and love of Jesus, so that we can love Jesus more and love His created humans more, no matter who they are, and how unlike us they are.

The promise given all the way back in Is 49, that “His salvation may reach to the end of the earth”; and Ps 98, “The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.”, is being fulfilled. You see, the gospel knows no boundaries. It is not limited by geography, race, or culture. It doesn’t see those things as deterrents. Not only does it welcome them, it has overcome them in every sense of the word, allowing now for reconciliation to take place between man and God, and man and man. Praise Jesus for His undying love, mercy, and grace for people.


  • Kim Kim says:

    I have conversations about this with my students quite frequently. I think it’s a great message! I completely agree that staying within a comfort zone is the biggest way that people develop stereotypes and prejudices against others.

    The other thing I always teach about racism is that whether you are a part of the majority culture or not, we all will inevitably exclude or say in ignorance something that is racist against another person. If a friend confronts you about it or shares that they were hurt or offended by it, treat it as if you had accidentally smacked them in the face. Ask them if they are alright, apologize, give a big supportive hug, and know not to do it again.

  • AP says:

    Good insights Kim. Thanks for sharing them with me. I hope you are doing well.

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