In the last few years, there has been a surprising amount of controversy around race in the church. People are actually confused about how Christians of different races should relate to each other, because everything is stupid.
The confusion centers primarily, if not exclusively, (at least in the U.S.) on how white Christians and black Christians should relate to each other. This kind of ethnic tension is somewhat of an anomaly in church history (which does, in fact, predate the United States), and the global church today (which includes all those countries outside the U.S., which do, in fact, exist). The fact that it is anomalous should be a warning to us that something’s not right.
Historically, the church has held that racial differences are of no account among Christians. This is not just a tradition from some happier time (because the Roman Empire was so pleasant), rather it is a consistent teaching of scripture. Paul lays it out in Galatians 3:26-28:
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It’s clear race, class, and even sex are superseded by our identity in Christ. While these differences do technically still exist (Paul talks about different roles for men and women in the church), they do not separate us from each other. Paul recounts correcting Peter on this very issue in Galatians 2:11-21. Peter, and the rest of the Jewish Christians had taken to eating separately from the Gentile Christians, in the very same way that Jews would not eat with Gentiles, to keep themselves ceremonially pure. Peter had two problems; first, that Christians aren’t bound by the law, because Christ fulfilled the law; and second because, as Paul goes on to explain to the Galatians, there’s no difference between Jews and Gentiles in Christ. This unity is the reason that Israeli Christians and Palestinian Christians can (and do) worship together while just a few miles away Palestinian terrorists are murdering Israeli civilians (or getting their much-deserved comeuppance). Because they are Christians first, they can come and worship together, no matter which side of the border they live on.
That is how it should be in American churches as well. There are no ‘black spaces’ or ‘white spaces’ in Christ, and there should be none in His church. Christians should not be ‘triggered’ by the presence of other Christians who happen to have a different skin color than their own; that’s racism. We should not act as if other Christians are guilty of sins committed by other members of their racial group, nor should we demand reparations from them for sins that they personally have not committed. That is also racist.
As a side note, even the concept of race is unbiblical and unscientific, as explained by Voddie Baucham and others, because we are all, black, white, or in the middle, descended from Adam, and then (thanks to the Flood) from Noah.
To answer the question posed in the title, ‘race’ has no role in the church. Christians do not relate to each other based on ethnic differences. We relate to each other on the basis of our unity in Christ, because we are all, regardless of minor genetic variations, sons (and daughters) of God. ‘Race’ should not be a factor in our relations with other Christians. We relate to each other as individuals, unique children of God, made in His image, united in our new life in Christ.