Charges of intolerance and prejudice are being made against Christians quite frequently these days. What do they mean and, more importantly, are we? Prejudice is defined as a dislike or distrust of people solely based on their being of another race, religion, or country. An opinion formed not of fact but on rumor, innuendo or others supposed experiences. To be honest we are all probably somewhat prejudiced. There is however, a big difference between prejudices and being racist, which is defined as the practice of discrimination, segregation and separation based on doctrines of supposed racial differences in character and intelligence; allowing for feelings of racial superiority. The problem with accepting prejudices is that it’s the first step to racism and bigotry; a stubborn, narrow-minded opinion held regardless of reality.
Are you any of the above? We must realize that prejudices aren’t found just between black and white but between religions, the religious and non-religious, between states and countries, males and females, old and young and between those of different living standards. Now – are you any of the above?
What does scripture say? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. For, “…the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,…” As, “…Christ is all, and is in all.” (Galatians 3:28; Romans 10:12 & Colossians 3:11)
Jew and Gentile – white and black. Slave and free – upper, middle or lower class. Greek and Barbarian – educated and uneducated. Sometimes the only difference between haves and have-nots is opportunity; but we all need to be saved and are all worthy in Christ of salvation. “For God does not show favoritism.” Romans 2:11 Nor will he accept it being shown by us. James exhorting us “…, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you.’ But say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet’, have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? …If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin…” James 2:1-4,8,9 As Christians, we need to be extra-sensitive of others feelings and realize that we will be held accountable for how we react to their “different-ness.” (Romans 12:16, Philippians 2:3 & Matthew 7:12) For, “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong and there is no favoritism.”; there either. Colossians 3:25 The reassuring fact being that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.’ (As unforgiving, grudge-held anger leads to vengefulness.) “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ (a term of contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21,22) That scares me. I have had some of those thoughts. So what’s the big deal? Anyone you hold in such contempt will undoubtedly be treated with disdain and an uncaring attitude, negating any opportunity to witness to God’s grace and love you might otherwise have had. Spiritually you’ve committed murder. You may have figuratively and literally told them to, ‘Go to hell!’ That is an emotion and mind-set God will not accept.
There is a certain irony in the prejudices held between whites of different backgrounds and origins found in our country’s early settlement years. English hated French who made fun of Germans. Italians ridiculed the Spanish who looked down their noses on the Scotts and Irish. Protestants feared and hated Catholics because of what had been inflicted on them in the Old World while Catholics felt the same as a result of what was now being done to them in the New. But after a while – we all blended together in appearance and language. Negroes, Asians, Indians, Latinos, Mexicans can’t. They still stand out as easy targets.
Yet can we go too far the other way? Does inclusion, tolerance of differences, acceptance of diversity in culture and background equate to an anything goes – everything’s right attitude? We must accept people, but how about behavior? We must understand peoples past which may modify our expectations, but do we excuse bad behavior as a result? We may note differing maturity levels of people but do we allow their immaturity to dictate what we teach and where we lead? Sometimes we can be so understanding and helpful as to facilitate or encourage bad behavior. Do we accept immorality because of the oft heard excuse, “God made me this way.’? Or wink at sin because, ‘The Devil made me do it.’? (Or because of unfortunate circumstance they’ve experienced in the past?) Can we, should we, expect better? People will blame everybody else, God and the Devil included when in fact, in contemplating right and wrong, they chose to do wrong. For whatever reason, wrong appeared more attractive or was easier than doing right; while the first step to repentance from wrong is the realization of it. Some things aren’t right; that doesn’t give us the right to abuse anyone but does give us the responsibility to stand strong and lovingly say so.
What’s the solution? Removal? Ship all non-whites, or others we have cultural differences with, back where they came from? (Which I’m sure crossed the minds of many Native Americans, who might have wished to send us whites back where we originated from – Europe!) Lincoln tried during the Civil War, offering to send blacks to the newly established country of Liberia with a grub stake for new settlement. A few took him up on the offer – Liberia meaning Liberty – but most didn’t want to go! And why should they? The only home they knew was here. On the other hand, is it fair to punish all whites for the stupidity practiced by others years ago? Hardly. Separation? Separate but equal was tried; didn’t work, never will. When it comes right down to it, the question is, ‘Do we really make a legitimate effort to get to know people who are “different” from us? Not as a people but as individual persons. Truth be known, we are all pretty much the same; needing love, understanding, acceptance and help. Who’s going to give it? Who will embrace the opportunity to get to know someone they’re unfamiliar with? John 3:16 declares that, “Whosoever believes” will be saved. Jesus assured us that, “…the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10; an active not passive attitude. He didn’t wait for the needy to come to him, he went to them. He came to us. All of us! And as Matthew 28:19 points out, our responsibility is to, “…make disciples of all nations,…”; accepting them as brothers as well.
Which begs the question: Does God see races of people or just saved and unsaved people; one to rejoice in and the other yet to be saved? The Godly attribute Samuel recognized is still true today. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 So what should our outlook be? “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:1-8; who gave his all for us all. (See also Romans 12:9-18)
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