was raised in a Christian family, but those Christian beliefs didn’t extend to everyone. My aunt made the “mistake” of marrying someone outside her race—at least her brother (my father) saw it as such.
Every Sunday when the extended family got together at my grandmother’s
house to visit, this man was ostracized. No one spoke to him. No one got near him. No one acknowledged he was even there.
At age 8, I found this not only strange but wrong. And if I could see that it was wrong, why couldn’t they?
My family said they were Christians, but their treatment of this family member
brought nothing but confusion to my young life. Their beliefs and actions did not coincide.
Nonetheless, I grew up to love people of all races and nationalities. While many people who grow up in a racist family tend to carry on the pattern, I am so thankful that I did not.
Prejudice comes in many forms; racism is just one of them. I would venture to say that prejudice of one kind or another poisons the heart of every one of us at some point, and perhaps more than we know.
Religious prejudice occurs not only between various religions or the religious versus the nonreligious, but also among the different denominations of Christianity. But in the early church, there were no denominational titles or divisions. There was just one body of believers.
Civil wars based on race and religion have filled history because people have a deep-seated prejudice against others who are different. Hate crimes happen for the same reason.
The issue of male-female prejudice touches nearly everyone. Class prejudice is universal. There is even prejudice between mothers who work and moms who stay at home.
Prejudice is so varied and widespread that there does not appear to be anyone who can escape all of its forms. Therefore, to some degree, we are all part of the problem.
Basically, prejudice is magnifying a particular experience into a universal principle—for instance, deciding that all women are poor drivers because one woman ran a stop sign and crashed into me.
We could endlessly describe how people—ourselves included—tend to make universals out of particulars. But when we look at Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, we find that He did no such thing (John 4:1-29). The Jews were very prejudiced against the Samaritans, but Jesus was different. He gave her more than the time of day; He gave her the water of life. Jesus treated her as an individual with as much value as any other individual.
The encounter at the well demonstrated that Jesus was free from the prejudice that dominated Jewish society. In this instance, Jesus rejected racial, religious, and sexual prejudice to reach out to a woman in need.
Jesus had to address prejudice in His disciples. They wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-54) and even had issues with little children (Mark 10:13).
The Pharisees were the worst; they belittled everyone who did not follow their impossibly long list of religious regulations. They especially criticized Jesus and His disciples. Jesus told them, “On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:28 NIV).
One of Simon Peter’s greatest spiritual battles was letting go of his prejudice against Gentiles. Even after Pentecost, Peter could not bring himself to eat with Gentiles. Only after God spoke to him in a vision did Peter visit and eat with the Gentile Cornelius (see Acts 10).
Peter’s battle indicates that prejudice is not easy to eliminate. For starters, we have to be aware of it, and often we’re not. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us.
If we are mindful of prejudice, we have a tendency to justify it and keep it under wraps so it does no obvious damage. We may even call it by another name so that it doesn’t seem so ugly. But however we try to hide it or whatever we call it, prejudice is sinful.
Prejudice creeps into our lives easily and is often linked to unforgiveness. For instance, if you have been mistreated by a person of another race, sex, class, or religion, you may hold all people in that category accountable—that’s prejudice.
If, however, you are hurt by that same person but forgive him or her immediately, prejudice will not take root. You will not stereotype every person of that same class, race, or culture.
Jesus had absolute, deep-seated convictions, yet He was able to accept all people regardless of how they were different from Him.
It’s pretty basic, really. A prejudice-free person believes that everybody is worth respect. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything about a person, but you don’t let it hinder you from treating him or her properly.
Jesus went against the grain of His culture and dared to love all people equally. As His followers, shouldn’t we strive to do the same?
Jesus was free of prejudice; He never closed the door on any individual. Because our goal is to be like Him, we cannot let the values of our culture control our lives.
In God’s kingdom, there is no place for prejudice of any kind. It goes against the very nature of God.
No one race is loved more by God than another. No denomination is more anticipated in heaven than another. No government, economic class, or educated group is more favored than another.
We all need a Savior—the Savior who loves all of us without prejudice.