Prejudice is the sunburn on the backs of America’s social flesh. Younger folk don’t like the ways of the older folk and oftentimes meet them with disdain or disgust. The ‘haves’ don’t like the ‘have-nots’ and look down with disgust wondering why they haven’t bettered themselves by now. The high school preppies don’t like the high school emos and the Cubs fans have no care for the Sox fans and vice-versa. No wonder the culture feels this way! The main cultural influence in the world has taught them and modeled prejudice to them.
There’s not too many institutions more wracked with prejudice than the church. Prejudice is terrible but the worst prejudice is the prejudice that one church or believer has for another church or believer because their faith and dogmas are not absolutely identical. The margins for giving another believer or church acceptance are so narrow that ‘narrow-minded’ may not sufficiently describe this shameful situation.
We want 'our side' or 'our team' to win. Consequently, we believe that God is on 'our side.' The only problem is that God cannot be compartmentalized. He is so vast that when we think that we have understood Him adequately and conceptualized Him accurately, we have stopped believing in Jehovah God and have constructed an image and concept of deity that are far below His nature and person.
What constitutes grounds for mutual-respect, let alone mutual-acceptance? Exactness. If ‘you’ are not historically a part of my faith tradition, then you are doing some serious lacking (is the prominent mantra). Even families who have marginal association with church, church attendance, etc., seem to be able to pass along to the next generation generous amounts of information and prejudice as to why their particular view is the valid view and why the others are not only lacking but are somehow enemies of our particular flavor of faith.
When faith starts becoming institutional and is no longer organic, everything exists for the maintenance and perpetuation of the ‘institution.’ That means we have to keep everyone that we can for our particular form of faith and religion. So that our sheep don’t wander off, we have to create an ‘us-and-them’ mindset where adequate walls of isolation and misinformation assure us that our sheep will not even look to the other field of contaminated swine (a little strong – I know).
We judge by sight. Right off the bat, we size someone up and determine whether we have reason to be civil to that person or not. And, all that that person has to do is ‘look’ different (wow, what a narrow worldview). It’s all about ‘heart’ and ‘heart attitude.’
The place that we give people in our hearts is where prejudice begins or ceases to exist. That is why it is such a serious issue to Christ. When Jesus said that if we hate our brother without a cause, we are in danger, a more accurate translation would say that if we are just ‘indifferent’ about our brother without a cause, we are in danger of His judgment. You see, it’s all about p-e-o-p-l-e. All people: all kinds of people.
When Jesus saw the ‘people,’ which included the people who would turn against Him and crucify Him, He saw them through the eyes of His Father and was moved with compassion for them and their needs. He was in Galilee of the Gentiles when He saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion. These were people whom a Jew should have disdained and abhorred from a religious / faith standpoint. However, He saw them through the eyes of His Father.
God existed long before any church and faith tradition began. He lived and continues to live outside any boundaries erected by man or otherwise. He cannot be contained. If you feel that you are exclusive in your claim on God and His affections, I’m here to let you know that your dogma can’t contain Him. If you believe that you are outside the commonwealth of His love, acceptance and forgiveness, even those boundaries cannot contain Him. If you think you are the only church or faith that is right, then you serve a very small, predictable god.
God’s love extends without parameters far beyond the walls of separation and isolation that dogma and tradition have erected. He reaches past our prejudice and idiotic small-mindedness to meet those who are like the Biblical ‘woman at the well’ who discovered that His love and forgiveness know no barriers.
Yes, I believe that I am ‘right’. However, I also believe that every believer who has found Life in the vicarious death, burial and resurrection of Christ are also right – as are their particular church who holds to the same. I see it, then, that if I am ‘against’ them just because they aren’t my ‘brand,’ I am actually against THE Body of Christ and have unjust, unfounded prejudice that hurts Him and His ministry.
I do not necessarily agree with everything that I hear being preached on Christian television. However, God IS using these soldiers of the Cross to reach people that I could never reach in ten lifetimes. God is using many of them to reach the un-saved at their point of knowledge and faith. And, the bottom line is a ‘net gain’ for the Kingdom of God as God takes their ‘foolish preaching’ to convince multitudes of His reality. In this, I rejoice and covenant never to impede their credibility with the platforms of influence and speaking God has afforded me.
What I do mind, are the ministers who take the valuable Harvest-reaching time to discredit another harvester who is helping to see that the Father’s house is filled. It is a waste of time and akin to sabotage to spend limited, valuable public time to discredit the work and ministry of another laborer in the field (unless the laborers infractions are absolute and undeniable).
If they are preaching Christ and Him crucified, buried and raised from the dead, leave them alone and be certain not to help eradicate their platform and influence while they are de-populating hell and populating Heaven. I’m just sayin . . . .
Bishop Freddie Steel – Life Church of Chicagoland – www.lifeinchicago.org – firstname.lastname@example.org