What Does God Say About Prejudice?
Dictionary.com’s first definition for prejudice is: “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” So, prejudice is an opinion formed without thought or reason. Let’s look at a few verses on reasoning and thoughtful action:
Is 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Prov 4:26-27, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
Is God asking us to think and reason before we form opinions and act on them?
Each of us are part of numerous groups; men, women, old, young, rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic, homosexual, heterosexual, republican, democrat, independent, homeless, college educated, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. So, when we see someone being identified with one of these groups, does it make sense to prejudge them? Are any of us fully described by just one of the groups we are in? Do all people in a group have the same opinions and do we all do the same things? Are we not individuals with personal beliefs and thoughts; and shouldn’t we be judged by the actions we individually choose to take?
God takes a Roman Centurion, in Acts 10:1-35, and uses him to teach us, through the Apostle Peter, that we cannot call any person unclean based on the group they are associated with. He takes an Ethiopian eunuch being baptized by Phillip, in Acts 8:26-38, to show us that our prejudices are often wrong. He uses a good Samaritan, a group looked down on by the Jews, to further demonstrate how wrong prejudice against groups can be, Lk 10:30-36, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to
an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”
Jesus has a conversation with a Sadducee, a Jewish leader, in Mk 12:28-34, “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.” Is Jesus teaching a member of the Sadducee how important love is to God? Why is He teaching a Jewish leader, instead of one of His followers?
Before we act on our opinions, our prejudices, God asks us to first consider our own weaknesses, Matt 7:3, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” If we reason first, might we then be able to see our neighbor more clearly.
Does God view each of us as individuals with the freedom to choose for ourselves?