Prejudices! Jesus came up against them throughout the course of His entire ministry – just as many of us do – especially if we find ourselves seeking to challenge vested interests! It’s usually pretty easy to recognise prejudices when they surface in other people, you will be familiar with the kind of people whose whole demeanour exudes the “don’t confuse me with facts: my mind’s made up!” The trouble is – prejudices are not just about other people: we’ve all got them. It’s just not always quite so easy to recognise our own – but it is really important that we do track them down and get to grips with them! I can do no more in this edition than to skim the surface of the prickly and far reaching matter of discerning our prejudices – but if it serves as a stimulus for us to invite the Lord to highlight and to pinpoint the prejudices we are carrying then it has served its purpose well.
‘Let me hear (NKJB I will hear) what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly . . . that glory may dwell in our land.’ (Ps. 85:8-9 ESV) I love the Psalmist’s prayer – it makes an excellent starting point considering this important topic.
In all likelihood our prejudices are as clear to others as it is for an adult to spot young children who are playing hide and seek and who naively think that they have concealed themselves just because they put their hand over their eyes – blissfully unaware that they have left their butt sticking out behind the sofa!
There are levels of ‘pre-judging’ situations that we do more or less all time concerning people and situations which are entirely right and necessary, and which are the fruit of maturity and discernment. We are more concerned here, of course, with the whole area of handling unwarranted prejudices: ones we really need to let go of and to move beyond, resolving to act fairly especially where our own preferences and deeply held beliefs verge on what others would call prejudices.
As we go in search of these prejudices, it is as well to be aware that three factors often combine in the forming of them – and that we need to apply and move in the opposite spirit to undo them. The last thing we want is for them to become strongholds in our life!
a) Lack of understanding. We wouldn’t think as we do if we knew the person or situation more fully.
b) Fear. Fears shape many of our responses, often leading to strong dislikes and other negative reactions.
c) Behind both often lurk the biggest of all, the one that used to be called the cardinal sin, but which we hear so much less of these days: the sin of Pride.
Set us free from prejudice, Lord!
Given that none of us can see straight on every matter, and that other people’s perspectives are often at least as valid as our own, it can be mutually enriching to sit down and talk with people who hold an entirely opposing stance, with a view to learning from them. Can you recall what happened on occasions when you tried to do precisely that? Did you benefit from such ‘cross pollination’?
Spanish proverb reminds us, ‘He is always right who suspects that he makes mistakes.’ Oliver Cromwell made the same point yet more strongly when he urged, ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, to think it possible you may be mistaken!‘ Such willingness is an important counterbalance to the more strident forms of triumphalism – and may such humility lead us not to despair when we realise that we have got something wrong, but rather into patterns of godly growth and repentance.
Any unwillingness in us to face such things makes us only too likely to fall into the way of simply denouncing beliefs and practices that we do not happen to agree with – and once again allowing our lack of understanding to combine with fear.
Continuing the beautiful quote I mentioned above we find a beautiful balance: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:10)
Lord I do not want to carry around within me things that distort my outlook. In Your mercy and for Your glory show me where my prejudices lie, where my seeing, hearing, thinking and speaking is being shaped and directed by things that do not reflect Your perspective.
Strong core all beliefs are absolutely vital – but may we not hold them so tight that we are unable to recognise truth in any other form or shape. And when we do become aware of our prejudices, may we neither despair at having wrongly entertained them, nor skate lightly over their implications, as if one brief word of repentance is enough to undo all the hurt we have caused.
Likewise, may we not swing wildly to some opposite extreme, denouncing what we once held to be true in an unbalanced way. But this we must pray: Father, forgive all the ways by which my prejudices have hurt and wounded others, and set all whom I have wrongly judged or withheld mercy from free from my insensitivity.’
And when I do find myself coming up against strong and powerful prejudices, whether in individuals or in organisations, grant me strategies for coping, knowing when to work my way around them, and when and how to challenge them.
Let ‘mercy and truth meet together in my heart, and righteousness and peace kiss each other’ [so that] Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness look down (smiles down NLT) from Heaven. (Ps, 85:10-11) Then indeed ‘our land will yield its harvest’ and ‘righteousness shall make his footsteps a way to walk in’ (our pathway NKJV)’ (Ps. 85:12-13)