Summary: To get into a finger-pointing act of "a different kind"...
One of the strange paradoxes’ of our world is that while defilement spreads by contact, holiness doesn’t (Haggai 2:11-13). By the same token, disease is contagious whereas-sadly at that- good health isn’t. A Chikungunia epidemic (in the Indian context) can spread by a mosquito bite but wholesome health doesn’t. Stretching this analogy, further it has to be said that finger-pointing acts fuelled by prejudice are ‘infectious’, whereas appreciative opinion about an acquaintance isn’t!
Coming to the Biblical realm, one doesn’t have to look beyond the friends of Job to arrive at this conclusion (No prejudice against them, please!). It has been jocularly said that with the kind of friends Job had, he did not need enemies. Weren’t they by his side, in the first place to comfort him in the midst of all his sorrows? (Job 2:11). Whoever asked these worthies to play the detective to find the root cause of Job’s difficulties; there they were, magnifying glass & all surmising that his cup of woes’ was running over only because of his sins (Job22: 4-11). How wrong! Since the righteous Judge of the World himself had certified him to be the most righteous person on planet earth (Job 1:8).
‘Good men rejoice, while the wicked suffer at the hands of a just God’ is the plaintive observation of not only the simple at heart but also that of (it should be added) ‘simpletons’ in faith. ‘Lord, is this man born blind on account of his sins or that of his parents?’(John9: 1-2). This poser of the disciples to our Lord, is the very definition of prejudice. However without being “too judgmental” of the disciples’ demeanor, a reality check, putting ourselves in the shoes’ of our Lord’s disciples would reveal that we too would have been carried away by prejudice at the sight of that blind man & posed a similar question. At a time, the needy require our help; let the ‘Good Samaritan’ in us take over. Let love ride the roughshod over prejudice, like we see it doing in the eventual action of our Lord when it came to curing the blindness of this man about whom his disciples’ had such a misplaced opinion.
Coming back to Job’s friends… an honest prayer to God seeking the main cause of Job’s problems would have made them come to grips with the truth that Job’s problems galore were an offshoot of a cosmic contest being ‘fought’ in the spiritual realm. However the ‘heart of the matter’ with respect to their disposition was that they showed ‘no heart’ to pray & seek an answer from God about Job’s pitiable condition. On the other hand they showed no qualms in applying salt to his copiously bleeding wounds, as it were, by way of their prickly accusations.
Wouldn’t God have revealed the ‘truth’ to them about the ‘cosmic contest’ had they humbly sought His counsel in this matter, thereby ‘clothing’ them with a much-needed humane spirit, even as they sought to counsel & comfort their saintly friend? The unsaid ‘dress code’ at that sensitive juncture required that they don not a customary apparel of ‘sackcloth & ashes’ but a more fitting (to the occasion that is)’clothing’ of care. But prejudice, held sway and the result? They inadvertently aggravated the problems of a grieving soul & ended up being ripe for God’s punishment. It was only God’s grace & Job’s timely intercessory prayers guided by a forgiving spirit, which saved them from a just Divine comeuppance (Job42: 7-11).
Sad isn’t it? Gossip & slanderous reports- both an offshoot of prejudice spread like wildfire whereas a salutary report of a person’s good deeds does not. As Christians, who are called to be ‘different’, isn’t it time to do a ‘health check’ with respect to prejudice? Are we often susceptible to it or we immune to this ‘disease’ by God’s ‘vaccination’ of wisdom & care in our hearts?
EVEN SAINTS ARE NOT IMMUNE...
Well, Job’s friends weren’t saints but even saints seem to fall prey to this ‘disease’, vulnerable as they are, in the moments of their discouragement. ‘Lord, none cares for you in this defiled land of Idol worship except me’ seems to be in essence the complaint of Elijah the mighty prophet in I Kings 19:14.It is interesting to note God’s response to His prophet who obviously had no reservations on blowing his own trumpet. Without harshly dismissing his cocky claim, the good Lord goes on to say that there are still 7000 men who loved him intensely (same chapter verse18). Only that a mortal Elijah with the finite propensity to jump to conclusions did not see them, while an omnipresent God with an infinite capacity did.
ECONOMIC CRITERIA? NON-SENSE...
While looking at James condemnation of social & economical favoritism (James 2:1-7) it is pertinent to notice his observation on ‘poor people blessed richly in faith’, necessitating yet another round of honest introspection vis-à-vis our opinion about those from lower strata of society. Great spiritual accomplishments are surely not beyond their reach. A Sister in faith once confessed to me of having cast a prejudiced “you-do-not-belong -here –amongst-the-spiritual elite” look at a poor vegetable vendor (also a lady) who joined her prayer group, lately. Only after hearing prayers’ of this poor lady which spoke as eloquently about the prayer group needs’ as it did about the spiritual maturity of the person who prayed (a prayer it is said is a dead giveaway of the spiritual condition of the pray-er), did my acquaintance humbly cry out to God for forgiveness for her prejudice.