- From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove
What Does God say about prejudice?
Merriam-Webster defines prejudice as: “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights;preconceived judgment or opinion; or an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.” So, prejudice is an opinion formed before the proper amount of thought or reasoning has occurred, which causes some kind of injury or damage. Let’s look at a few verses on reasoning and thoughtful action:
Is 1:18, “Come now, and let us reasontogether, 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.” and 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? When we form opinions without reasoning, are we following God’s way? Each of us is part of numerous groups; men, women, old, young, rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic, doctor, farmer, homosexual, heterosexual, democrat, republican, 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 differing personal beliefs and thoughts? Should we allow others the freedom to express themselves without being prejudged? Even a small careless thought expressed can cause harm, for it might change someone’s opinion of another person.
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 their association with a group of people. 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 Jewish leader who was a member of the Sadducee, 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, or is He using that moment to teach all of us? Can we see that Jesus has no prejudices, He invites all to His eternal family? It is always our choice, to either accept His invitation to eternity, or not?
Beforewe act on our opinions, our prejudices, God asks us first to 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 more forgiving when we think about our neighbor? Did Jesus not offer His life as a sacrifice for all who believe in Him? God asks us to love everyone, even our enemies, and leave the judging to Him, Matt 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” and Matt 7:1-5, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” God loves all of us and wants each of us to have every opportunity to accept His gift of salvation. When we judge others, they witness our inner hypocrite, as they think we believe we have never sinned and are somehow better than them. But, God has told us that everyone has sinned, Rom 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” There is no reason for any of us to be pointing our fingers at others, we should be showing them God’s love and forgiveness, instead.
Our prejudice is no more than our ignorance on full display for all to see. Sure, a small group of people we associate with might like what we say, however, God does not share that view. It is not God’s way, and it will never lead people to Christ. God views each of us as individuals with the freedom to choose for ourselves? And, He will judge us as individuals on judgment day, Matt 25:31-33, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” Our personal prejudices will not be used in the judging of others, as we are all divided into those final two groups, like sheep and goats, unto our eternal destinations; however, our prejudices might be part of our own judgment. So, our own prejudices hurt us more than those we condemn. Those of us who choose to prejudge, might be surprised on judgment day, for some of us who think we are very religious will hear these words, Matt 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The Father’s will requires us to love everyone without judging him or her. This is His will because; He wants everyone to experience His love, to be drawn to it, which they will experience through the unconditional love we show them. We are to be His witnesses.
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