Some thoughts on racism & prejudice

Jesus said: The poor you will always have with you. He’s right. But that also makes me wonder: What else will we always have with us in this life? If you took that phrase, and put a __________ in place of the word poor, how else could you begin this sentence:

___________ you will always have with you.

Here are some words that I think fit that space:

  1. Greed
  2. Gossip
  3. Grief
  4. Girls (That’s a good thing, especially since I’m married to one. And have two who call me Dad. And who, one day, will give me grandkids. Hey, that’s another really good G.)
  5. Grace (Thank God … Hey, there’s another really good one that also fits in the blank.)
  6. Gratitude
  7. Grumpiness (for those who choose not to cultivate item #6)
  8. Generosity (for those who DO choose to cultivate item #6)
  9. Government (That’s a good thing, right? Right?)
  10. Glasses (for me, at least)

There are a lot of things we will always have with us in this life. And that’s just 12 things that start with G. Some good. Some bad. Some, somewhere in between. We could fill that blank with a LOT of things, and we could make this blog very long. But let me just add one more thing we will always have with us in this life: Racism.

I wish it weren’t so. I wish that we could look forward to the day when racism would be done away with in this age where we live. But we can’t – because even though most people would run from the term, and a large majority of people have no desire to be racist, it will persist, for 2 reasons.

One, we are a people beset by sin. And sin is certainly not getting less, but more. And racism is sin.

Two, even those of us who would (appropriately) run from the label of racist, struggle with Racism’s cousin, Prejudice. And the truth, as I see it, is that prejudice is a part of every human heart.

Why? Because prejudice happens when I pre-judge someone. Before knowing them, or even knowing much about them, I am pretty good at subtly evaluating them, and making a judgment about them. In other words, pre-judging them – showing prejudice.

Let me go on to say that I don’t believe that all pre-judging is wrong. The truth is: all of us make quick decisions about people, based on little information. For me, the issue isn’t that we pre-judge; it’s what we DO with what our mind is telling us about that person, or that group, that we are assessing.

For example, I can look at you and decide that because you  (again, fill in the blank):

  • are old
  • are young
  • have long hair
  • have white hair
  • wear ripped jeans
  • wear an $800 suit
  • speak Spanish
  • speak poor English
  • don’t speak much at all

…you’re not like me, or you ARE like me – and then make decisions accordingly.

In other words, prejudice evaluates people on their differences. Racism, then, is one way we might choose to treat the person based on those differences. You see, I can’t help but notice what makes you different from me. But I can choose how I act (or not) on those perceptions.

There is NO doubt that Jesus came to set aside our differences. Not ignore them, but recognize them – and in the midst of them, call us to a unity we would never have on our own. At the very heart of the Good News of Jesus is that ALL are invited to drink of the water of life. In fact, as Travis & Dena Hurley point out in a very helpful article: inclusion of Gentiles in the family of God is at the very heart of the Gospel. Jesus didn’t come simply to invite individuals to receive His grace; He deliberately came inviting Jew & Gentile, slave & free, male & female, old & young, black, white and brown to experience His grace –together. In other words, Jesus invites us to look beyond our prejudices, and choose to welcome, and love, those who are different. And because the Spirit is at work, He brings us together, differences and all, and makes us one.

Sadly, racism will always be a reality in this world, because sin will always be a reality. But at the very center of the Church’s calling is to live another way, to BE another way; to allow the Spirit to lead us not to be defined by what separates us, but what unites us; to continue to grow in Gracism, not Racism – even as we look forward to The Day when all sin, all division, all racism will be done away with. Forever.

Author:

Welcome to my blog. I'm Jeff Dye -- a follower of Jesus, a husband and dad, and lead minister at Fern Creek Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. In other words, I am a learner --and hope to be each day I am given breath. I will use this site to share my thoughts on faith and life, some of it through the lens of what is happening with the church family at Fern Creek. If you're interested, feel free to read over my shoulder.

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