Israel was God’s chosen people. God told them that they needed to be pure, a holy nation to him (Leviticus 19:2). They were to worship him and him alone (Exodus 20:3) and they were not to worship him in the same ways that the pagans worshiped their false gods (Deuteronomy 12:31). Thus, God had certain expectations on his people. Because they were his chosen people and needed to be pure, he placed a few restrictions on them: No mixing of animals in breeding, seeds in planting, or fabrics in clothing (Lev. 19:19). These laws all pointed to the idea of purity and foundational to mixing things is that they become diluted, no longer pure.
Another law that God gave to Israel had to do with interracial marriage. He told them, concerning the foreign nations, “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” (Deut. 7:3-4). Is God saying that all interracial marriage is wrong? No, he is not, and here is why…
Israel was a nation chosen by God to worship God. What you have to understand about the “foreign nations” at that time is that your nationality was your religion. If you were an Israelite, you worshiped the God of Israel. If you were a Moabite, you worshiped Moabite gods. If you were a Babylonian, you worshipped the gods of Babylon. God forbid the interracial marriage of Israelites to other nations because, ” they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.” It wasn’t an issue of ethnicity; it was an issue of faithfulness to God and right worship of him.
New Testament Interracial Marriage
We see the same standard in the New Testament. Paul tells the church in Corinth, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). God extended those who were adopted into his family to those outside of the nation of Israel and now anyone in the world can be called “one of God’s people” because of Jesus Christ. Thus, those who are believers are God’s people who are to worship God. The command to not marry those who are pagans extends to Christians as well. We belong to Christ and those who marry become one flesh (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
Therefore, Paul is saying that we should not marry those who are not believers because we would be making Christ in us one with that person who does not know him – much like what God cautioned Israel not to do.
So we can see that marriage between the nations was not about race. It was about worshipping God rightly and ensuring that he was the center of the marriage relationship.
Interracial marriage is okay – interfaith marriage is not.
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Kanisa Fellowship is a contemporary Seventh-day Adventist church in Toronto, Canada.