Summary: Prejudice causes us to treat people as inferior and is inappropriate in the life of a Christian, so how can we as Christians avoid prejudice in our lives?
8. The Book of Acts
July 12th, 2009
A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Italy on a Mission trip to work with some local missionaries and help them get their church developed. It was a great trip we got to go to Rome which I was really excited about. On our way back we had an 18 hour layover in Munich. So rather than laying around the airport we took a train into the city to find a place to eat diner. We didn’t really know our way around so we went into a German restaurant pub sort of deal. This place was awesome. It was all brick in side and the servers wore actual and I kid you not the stereotypical bar maid server uniforms we so often portray Germans wearing in movies. Our waitress came over and she was EVERYTHING you would image a German bar maid to be. She looked like an opera singer, he had blonde hair done in big tails, and a deep voice that makes mine sound like a mouse squeaking. She comes up to the table with her thick German accent and says: Ok what kind beer you have? We said we were not having any beer. She thought that was hilarious. Oh please, what kind beer? Again we said no beer. When she realized we were serious her face dropped and she was really confused. No beer? What you drink then? Now as soon as she walked away all the people I went with started talking. “What do you think her name is.” Some said Ulga and the others said Helga. I was really annoyed by this. I even stopped them and said: are you kidding me right now, we are in Germany and you guys are acting like racists. Come on that is so rude to guess stereotypical names for a German waitress. You guys should really deal with your prejudice. It didn’t make me popular but it did put an end to our American arrogance. So then the waitress comes back with our drinks and one of the guys asks her what her name is. She smiled and said, my name is Ulga. I didn’t talk for the rest of the trip. What are the odds of that? Here I was thinking we were displaying our ignorance and all they were doing is accurately guessing her name.
Now when we left that diner we headed back to toward the train there was a singing comedian on the street with a crowd of people watching. I don’t know how he knew but as we were passing by he recognized we were Americans. So he stopped his act and began to make jokes about us. We tried to ignore it and walk away which only seemed to escalate the volume and energy of his jokes. I remember we all had this uneasy feeling. We were in a foreign country and we were a minority. There was a certain sense of tension around us as we were not certain what would happen or how to respond to this comedian. We didn’t really get German humor so we just really were not sure if this guy was playfully joking for fun or if he was trying to make trouble. This was the only time in my life that I am aware of that I experienced the other side of prejudice. It was not enjoyable. There is something about being a minority and having people judge you and treat you differently because you are not like them that makes you feel less than human. There is just something about prejudice that makes you inferior. For most of us in this room you may never experience the other side of prejudice. Most of us will not likely be discriminated against because of our race or nationality. In fact the idea is so foreign to us that most of us never even really stop to think of it as an issue.
Racism and prejudice are complicated issues to which there are many facets. We like to think that at least in America it was something from the past and to some degree that is true. Racism is not nearly has prominent as it was 20 or 30 years ago but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You know what one of the most racist countries in the world is? Israel. The racism that exists there goes beyond just the color of skin but to the nationality of the person. Putting aside all the fighting that goes on in the Middle East they have neighborhoods segregated based on nationality. That is racism. In Israel however racism is not melanin based it is ethnically based. We are going to look at Acts 10:9 but in order to understand what is going on we need to understand the prejudice that existed at this point. The law of God that set the Jews apart from every other nation had many laws about cleanliness. As a result the issue of something being considered clean or unclean was very important to the Jews. They would view certain foods and certain people as unclean and thus avoid association with them all together. The Jews took great pride in keeping themselves clean. Of course this gave them a very natural prejudice. The Jews had certain prejudice supported by the law against the Gentiles. That prejudice is what we are going to see in our text today.