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					The Christian and Prejudices

Goals
  1. To understand what prejudices are.
  2. To understand what the Bible teaches about such prejudices.

Objectives
  1. To appreciate the three prejudices which can affect a Christian as a human being –
      gender, race and nation
  2. To appreciate the dangers of prejudice against the spiritual state of other churches
      and assemblies
  3. To overcome the lingering effects of pre- conversion prejudices and superstitions on
      the believer.
  4. To overcome other prejudices

Text
Gen 2:18; Deuteronomy 24:17; Prov 16:3; Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 9,51-
56,10:33,38-42; John 4:1-42, 13:35, 15:16; Acts 8:14-17, 9:39, 10:34-35,11:19, 15:8-11;
Rom. 2:10-12, 3:21-23, 12:1,3, 15:7, 16:1-2; 1 Cor.12:13, 14:20,34-35; Gal.3:28, 4:8-10,
6:1; Eph 2:11-16, 4:3; Phil 2:13; Col 3:11; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Tim.2:11-15, 5:10,14; Jas 2:5-7; 1
Pet. 2:23, 3:1

Memory Verse
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male
nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

1. Definition
Prejudice is a judgement or opinion about something or someone formed beforehand or
without knowledge or examination of the facts. The root word of prejudice is "pre-judge."
Prejudice is a set of attitudes which causes, supports, or justifies discrimination.
Discrimination is a behavior, particularly with reference to unequal treatment of people
because they are of a particular group whether it be gender, racial, religious, or national.

2. Forms of Prejudice
a) Gender Prejudice
Gender prejudice typically refers to the attitude or belief that one gender (usually the male)
is superior or more valuable than the other gender. It views females as the “weaker sex”. The
attitude can be hostile or subjectively benevolent (but patronizing) since men depend on
women as wives, mothers and lovers. Gender prejudice gives rise to discriminating sexist
behaviour such as preferring male babies to female ones, educating sons and not daughters,
giving men the right to vote and not women, providing job opportunities for men, etc.

For much of history men have held positions of power and for the last 3,000 years or so
people have lived in social structures controlled by male attitudes and values. Historical and
religious writings over the last 2,000 years illustrate the way that societies have treated
women. Attitudes toward women are generally positive today but in certain cultures, women
and girls still have no identity, no rights, no education, no employment and suffer domestic
violence.
The Lord Jesus did not show sexist behaviour. He preached to women as well as men (Luke
10:38-42), revealed Himself as saviour to a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-30), had women
followers and after the resurrection appeared first to a woman (Matthew 28:1-10). Christians
believe, and Jesus said that under grace, all people are equal; there is neither male nor female
(Gal 3:28).

The Bible teaches that women are to keep silent in the churches and to be submissive (1 Cor
14:34-35); they are not permitted to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim 2:11-15). Many
people take issue with these New Testament passages and label Paul a woman-hater. Paul
was no woman-hater as his epistles often commend and speak of women with graciousness
and respect.

In fact, submission is not restricted to women; it is to be the life-style of every believer.
There are different spheres of authority (e.g. government, employment, church) and
corresponding spheres of responsibility and submission. Under church government, men and
women are different in their roles and functions by God’s plan and design (Gal 3:28, Gen
2:18). Leadership is vested in the men in all assembly gatherings and among mixed
audiences. Christian women have a wide sphere of ministry such as leading in meetings
where there are only sisters; teaching ministry and gospel outreach among other women and
children; involving in charity, good works, hospitality, visitation, practical help to the saints;
teaching younger women to be good wives, mothers and home-makers (1 Tim 2:12, Acts
9:39, 1 Tim 5:10, Rom 16:1-2, 1 Tim 5:14, Tit 2:3-5). Submission does not mean inferiority.
In 1 Peter, there is a clear parallel between Christ's submission to "Him who judges
righteously" (1 Pet. 2:23) and the mandate for wives to be submissive "in the same way" to
their own husbands (1 Pet. 3:1). This shows that the wife's role is dignified, not demeaned,
because it so clearly reflects the life Jesus lived.

b) Racial Prejudice
Racial prejudice refers to the attitude or belief that one race or ethnic group is superior to
others. It can lead to blatant racial discrimination or more subtle forms of bias. Modern racial
prejudice is also demonstrated by exaggerated racial sensitivity, such as inflated praise or
lesser criticism leading to lower standards eg in school work.

There should be no belittling of certain races based on colour etc. This is because God’s love
is the same for all races. God created all humans in his image, and thus all humans are bound
together as equals in the sight of God. Christ has broken the wall of separation between Jews
and Gentiles (Eph 2). The saved ones are in one body, the universal church, regardless of
race or language.

There are Old Testament rules and laws that tell Jews how to behave towards foreigners to
create a just and harmonious society (Deuteronomy 24:17). The New Testament is also full
of teachings and illustrations about love and care for people of other races.

The Lord Jesus spoke favourably of Samaritans (Luke 10:33) who were much despised by
the Jews. He told the story of the Good Samaritan when a lawyer asked the question, “"What
must I do to enter the kingdom of heaven?" so that the listeners would regard their
neighbours as their fellow humans. Even on an occasion when He was denied lodging in a
Samaritan village, the Lord Jesus reminded His followers of their wrong attitude (Luke 9:51-
56). He intended that one day these same Jewish apostles would call down upon Samaritans
not fire from heaven, but the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). When the Lord exclaimed, “Behold,
I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”,
the twelve lifted their eyes and beheld the Samaritan village near at hand (John 4:1-42).
Another example to challenge the prejudice in the early church was when Peter had a dream
about the Jewish food laws. This was when the disciples were arguing if non-Jews could be
followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples had assumed that because the gentiles (non-
Jews) were not following the Jewish food rules they could not be Christians. In his dream
Peter realised that this was an unfair prejudice (Acts 11:1-10). Paul also reinforced these
views with the words, "There is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews ...
Christ is all, Christ is in all. " (Col 3:11).

c) Prejudice against Nation
This follows from (b) above. There is a tendency to be biased for certain nations and
prejudices for others. It could be based on wealth or military might. There is a difference
between judging the wrongs of a nation (such as terrorism) and judging a nation per se. The
Lord will judge all nations regarding their response to the Gospel.

As the Lord began sharing His plans for world evangelism with His original disciples, He
had to contend with the prejudice and narrowness prevalent in those times. The Jews
misunderstood their privileged position. Instead of conceiving their role as God’s witnesses
and instruments of blessings to the nations, they despised them. Some rabbis even
considered the Gentiles to be so much as fuel for the fires of hell. The Book of Acts records
a long teaching process necessary to overcome this error. The Christians literally had to be
forced by persecution beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem (Acts 11:19). Supernatural
visions, the miraculous convergence of circumstance and the believing gentiles’ visible,
audible reception of the Holy Spirit were necessary to convince the apostle Peter and his
Jewish brethren. They saw that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man
who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to approach Him (Acts 10:34-35).

d) Prejudices arising from Spiritual Pride
This happens when a Christian has an attitude of superiority over other Christians. This type
of prejudice can arise at the corporate level and personal level.

At the corporate level, there is a great and grave danger that those in conservative assemblies
tend to look down at other churches or assemblies. This has arisen due to their emphasis on
teaching and use of certain Bible versions, or overemphasis on certain New Testament
principles and practices. On the other hand, Christians attending a famous charismatic
church with lively worship may think better about their position in worshipping God when
compared to others who cannot attend a similar one. The Lord will judge individual churches
or assemblies as seen in the messages to the Seven Churches in Rev 1-3, as each local
church or assembly has its own leadership which is accountable for it. Every true past,
present and future is part of the universal church, which is the Body of Christ and in the
coming day is the means of expression of His glory.

At the personal level, this kind of prejudice can arise when one feels that he/she is walking
much closer with the Lord compared with other Christians due to his/her daily reading of the
Bible, better knowledge of the Bible and other spiritual-related issues, regular attendance at
meetings, distribution of tracts or involvement in ministries. One feels that his/her testimony
and manner of worship is better. It can manifest itself in a hypercritical attitude of others; apt
to find fault with other saints that they are low in grace; quick to take notice of their coldness
and deficiencies. One can get into the way of thinking that everything that harmonizes with
his or her ideas is to the glory of God, and that whatever would not harmonize with his or
her ideas could not be pleasing to Him.

It is a good when one is able to walk closely with the Lord, but any disposition to boast of
the matter or feel good over others should lead to careful examination of one’s motives lying
behind these activities in the Lord’s service.

If we look into the matter, we will realize that we have no reason to boast about our works
and us because whatever success would have come from the contributions from so many
known and unknown means and persons – whether it be from the writings of others,
experiences of others, the skills learned from others and the support of those who have
inspired and helped us. We have not chosen God; He has chosen us (John 15:16). It is God
Who wills in us to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). It is God Who gives to every
man his measure of faith (Romans 12:3). It is God Who orders the thoughts of a righteous
man (Proverbs 16:3). Anything and everything that a Christian might accomplish is by grace,
and God’s Holy Spirit. Even if we were to give all of our time and energy honouring the
Lord’s name and serving Him, we should feel that we had not really profited our Lord but
merely found an opportunity to show Him a little of the devotion of our hearts in
acknowledgement of His mercies and blessings in our lives. It is our reasonable service
(Rom 12:1). Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, but everything for the glory of
God.

e) Other prejudices
Prejudices from pre-conversion days include certain beliefs or superstitions we might have
adopted before becoming Christians. Examples are not wearing black and not sweeping the
home with brooms during Chinese New Year. Some harmless or trivial ones might be
acceptable, whereas others might be sensitive to others such as unbelieving parents. The
guiding principle for Christians would be not to stumble others.

Other prejudices can arise between the rich and the poor, the educated and the less/un-
educated (Jas 2) or even the type of jobs (such as blue collar workers, hotels, stock broking
firms, entertainment industry, etc). God created the world for all people to share and he
created all humans equal. The Lord Jesus associated with people from all walks of society,
even those who would have been despised like the leper and the prostitute (Mark 14:3-9).
Jesus treats all people as equal regardless of their 'social status'. We should not make
judgments about people in their status, power, wealth or the type of work that they do.

3. Responding to Prejudice
Prejudice is learned through living in and observing a society where prejudices exist,
whether in the family, in school, among peers, in the workplace or even from the media.
Children's opinions are influenced by what the people around them think, do and say. Even
if you, as a parent, are a model of tolerance, your children are still exposed to other people
who may not respect differences. A parent can help their child become sensitive to other
people’s feelings and understand another person’s point of view. Children should be taught
that prejudice and discrimination are unfair and have respect and appreciation for
differences. They should be taught to recognize instances of prejudice in the media and
discuss how they can respond appropriately.
4. Conclusion
Prejudice is an attitude of “pre-judging” something or someone without knowledge or
examination of the facts. It can lead to discriminating behaviours. Many forms of prejudice
still exist today – gender, racial/ethnic and national; due to spiritual pride, pre-conversion
days as well as those related to wealth, education or type of occupation/work. The teachings
of the Bible, the examples of the Lord Jesus as well as His apostles clearly teach that God’s
love is the same for all races across all nations. God created all humans in His image and
Christ has broken the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2), saving
regardless of race or nation. Prejudice only serves to hamper the spread of the Gospel to
other races and nations. It retards the spiritual growth of the local assembly. We should be
quick to recognize instances of prejudice and respond appropriately, and teach our children
to do likewise.

Questions for discussion
1. Discuss how we can be true to Scripture as we interpret it without prejudices against
   other believers. What is the practical stand?
2. While some nations will look down at the Jews, believers are encouraged to pray for the
   peace of Jerusalem (Ps.122:6). Discuss what the latter means to believers.

Life Applications
3. Your colleague tells jokes about a certain race. What should be your response?
4. Discuss how you would teach children how to recognize and respond to prejudice.

Bibliography (Reference Books and Recommended Reading.)
1 Kelley Varner, The Three Prejudices
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product/?item_no=0431873&p=1010575
2 William MacDonald, Believers’ Commentary on Jn.13:35; Rom.15:7; Eph.4;3
3. Living Discipleship Principles, O.J.Gibson
4. http://www.answers.com/topic/prejudice
5. http://re-xs.ucsm.ac.uk/gcsere/revision/xtianpers/chper3.html
6.
http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=286&id=2348




2006/Teo Chiew Gee

				
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