Summary: The death of George Floyd brought the problem of racial injustice to the forefront again. Although there may be a need for police reform, the underlying problem goes deeper. What does God's word say about things like racism, prejudice and discrimination?
RACISTS AND BIGOTS AND BIAS, OH MY!
The death of George Floyd brought the problem of racial injustice to the front burner again. This time it seems like the protesters are not letting up until there's at least some level of reform. Although there may be a need for that, the underlying problem is much deeper and broader. What does God's word say about things like racism, prejudice and discrimination?
The NIV doesn't use the word prejudice but you can see it has the prefix pre followed by j-u-d, the first three letters in the word judge. In essence, if I'm prejudice, I'm pre-judging someone or a situation.
That might not have anything to do with a person's race. You can be prejudice without being a racist. I might be prejudice against women or foreigners or people of a certain class or status. However, if I'm a racist I will be prejudice. I'm prejudging you based on your race or ethnicity.
One of the words associated with prejudice is narrow-mindedness. I think of a specific class of people and view them all in a certain light. We see a black person we immediately categorize him as ghetto or a gangster. We see a white person and we see them as uppity or snobbish. All middle-eastern people are a terrorist and so on.
But what causes us to be prejudice? Sometimes it happens over one instance. If I get mugged by a black guy suddenly all black men are thugs. If a white person mistreats me suddenly all white people are racists. When we put a whole class of people in a category because of one or two incidents then we are no longer looking at people as individuals; we're judging them as a whole.
Another pair of words connected with prejudice are preconception and predisposition. My preconceived notion about you fuels my disposition towards you. I've said at various times that before it's an act it's a thought. In order to act insultingly toward you I must first have offensive thoughts about you.
Sometimes being prejudice isn't due to hatred but ignorance. My assumptions can fuel my prejudice. This is what happened with Samuel. When God sent Samuel to Jesse to pick a replacement for King Saul, he had a preconceived notion of what God's criteria would be to select a new king.
1st Sam. 16:6-7, "When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD'S anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
And therein lies the problem. Whether innocently or maliciously, we can tend to judge by what we see. If a teen-aged boy has long hair he's a rebellious troublemaker. We see a girl with tight clothes she's automatically a slut. But we don't know their story; we don't know their heart.
Just because we see a black person driving a Cadillac it doesn't automatically mean he's a drug dealer. That may be true in some cases but not all of them. And since we don't know anything about the person we have no business pre-judging them. We might draw conclusions based on preconceived ideas and notions.
What are kinds of people are you prone to categorize? Who are those you tend to judge by outward appearance? Is the woman with no teeth and bad grammar using her food stamp card automatically a low life? Is the white man in a nice suit walking downtown automatically an arrogant SOB?
Is the homeless man a dirty scumbag or are they a human being created by God? Is the ex-con a forever loser or are they someone who needs the love of God shown to them? What about the drug addict or the prostitute? What about the rebellious teenager or the skinhead? Are all these people worthless pieces of trash and a waste of space?
Or could some of them have a good heart? Could some of them have the potential to do better things with their lives if someone gave them a chance? A chance to see beyond their exterior and get to know the person inside.
These people have met too many people who are prejudice against them. They need to meet some Christians who would act differently toward them; people who would show them the love of Jesus.
Another word that is sometimes connected with this topic is bigot. However, as someone who's prejudice isn't necessarily a racist, the same is true of a bigot. They can be a racist, but the definition of a bigot is, somebody with strong opinions, especially on politics, religion or ethnicity, who refuses to accept different views.