Prejudice is a universal problem of the human condition. It exists in every generation and every nation. Wherever there are racial, tribal and cultural differences, prejudice will take root, fueled by pride, ignorance, fear, bitterness, resentment and anger.
So what can we do? We must affirm the rule of law in our land. We must live up to our pledge to provide “liberty and justice for all.” And we must recognize the problem is ultimately one of the heart that requires a transformation of soul and spirit.
We can do what Bennie Newton did during the Los Angeles riots. Risking his life to save a truck driver who was being beaten to death, Newton rushed to the victim’s side, lifted a Bible above his head and cried out, “Kill him and you have to kill me too!” We can do what the churches in Ferguson did last week. Worshipers from the mostly white St. Stephen’s and the Vine Church joined the predominantly African-American Wellspring Church for Thanksgiving dinner. We can embrace one another across racial divides, like the white officer who embraced the black youth in Portland during one of the protests. We can take actions, little and large, to reach out as Jesus did, across the chasm of prejudice to embrace those of different ethnicities and cultures.
Jesus gave us the example when he found it necessary to go through Samaria, a forbidden territory where no respectable Jew ventured. It was there that he sat down by a well, alone, entered in to conversation with a Samaritan woman, and extended to her the water of life. He crossed cultural, racial and traditional barriers to demonstrate God’s love for every person. As the children’s song says, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.”
When Paul was a young man he was filled with self-righteousness and contempt. He considered himself a Jew of the Jews, born of the tribe of Benjamin, superior to others by race, class and intellect. He once set out in an angry rage to arrest innocent men and women who disagreed with him. But after he met Christ, his heart was changed. He later wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself.” (Philippians 2:3).