Prejudice and the Bible
In this final chapter I want to talk to about the problem of prejudice in its various forms and what the Bible teaches about this sin. Time and space will not permit me to deconstruct every movement in our society focused on some form of prejudice. However, I would like to state what the Bible says about the subject of prejudice, a sin that predates the founding of this nation.
First of all, the word 'prejudice" means to pre-judge or to decide in advance. In other words, you judge, usually in a negative way, based on insufficient, limited, or faulty evidence.
There are many kinds of prejudice (gender, handicaps, age, education, economic standard, culture, political or religious views etc.) just to name a few. The one causing much strife today is social prejudice. This occurs when someone makes a negative judgement about someone based solely on their culture, usually something false or stereotypical. For example:
- Mexicans are lazy and ignorant
- Whites are naturally prejudice – most popular one today.
- Blacks are criminals and untrustworthy.
- French are snobs and cowards.
- All Asians are good at math.
- All students are radicals.
- All politicians are lairs.
- The police want to kill black men.
- Christians are hypocrites.
- Women of color are sexually immoral.
- All news media lie or tell the truth.
There are, therefore, many types of prejudices in the world but for the sake of time I'm going to focus on racial/cultural prejudice because this is the form of prejudice most often mentioned in the Bible.
Of course, the teaching on social prejudice in the Bible can also be applied to other forms of prejudice as well.
It also responds well to the latest argument concerning racism called "critical race theory," a theory that declares that all white people are racist oppressors and are unconsciously biased against all other races, especially people of color.
This "theory" is based on declarations, assumptions and manipulation of language, and in response it would do us well to review what the Bible teaches about racism and prejudice.
Prejudice in the Bible
5Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
- Exodus 19:5-6
The Jewish people, in time, mis-interpreted this to mean that only they were to be with God and that they were to look down on others as unworthy. What God wanted from the Jews was that by their holy living and rich blessings, they would be a light to non-believers and draw them to Him, not push them away.
Although God did not permit the Jews to worship pagan gods, or marry pagan women, He did not forbid social contact with Gentiles (how else could they win them?). Jewish rabbis, however, created such strict rules that by the time of Jesus, people would take baths in order to "cleanse" themselves in case they came in contact with non-Jews in the marketplace, they would even cross the street to avoid their shadow crossing their own.
Jewish people loved and helped their own but were taught to condemn and despise anyone else who wasn't Jewish. This is the situation the apostles faced when they began to preach the gospel among the Gentiles.
New Testament Teaching on Prejudice
The New Testament doesn't have a passage that says, "Thou shalt not be prejudice." Rather, it gives other general commands and examples that tell us how a Christian deals with this issue.
1. The Command/Teaching
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
- Matthew 7:12
Every form of prejudice goes against this rule. The reason for the teaching is twofold:
- God is a loving being and He treats everyone with love regardless of who or what they are. As believers and disciples, He wants us to have His attitude.
- Everyone is a descendant of Adam and so no one culture or race is superior to another. Modern genetic research has shown this to be true.
Different cultures began to evolve when God separated the people and gave them different languages – the story behind this is the following:
1Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." 5The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6The Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.
- Genesis 11:1-9
Early in man's history, everyone spoke the same language up until and a little after Noah and the flood. Some believed the one language spoken was an ancient form of Hebrew. God told them to spread out and populate the earth, but they refused and instead stayed in one place and started building this huge monument, which represented their earthly kingdom, where they could worship idols.
In order to stop them God made them speak different languages. This naturally confused the people and stopped the building of the tower (because they couldn't understand each other). These types of buildings are called ziggurats and there are still some types of these ancient towers in the Middle East. With time the people began to reorganize into groups who spoke the same language and drifted away from each other to different parts of the earth. The tower was called Babel, which means "to mix."
As these groups separated, the variety in climate, food, customs and the in-breeding they experienced created the genetic differences in physical appearances we see today. There are some very different looking, sounding and acting people on the earth but their differences are the result of thousands of years of different experiences, however, the Bible tells us that at one time all people were the same because they all came from one man and woman.
In the church, people have not always believed this to be so, for the U.S. and Europe there was a time when some Christians believed that the Bible taught that people of color were inferior.
In Genesis 9:18-27 God put a curse on Ham (Noah's son) because he was disrespectful to his father.
18Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.
20Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. 24When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25So he said,
"Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers."
26He also said,
"Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.
27"May God enlarge Japheth,
And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant."
In time, the nations in parts of the Middle East and Africa were believed to be descended from Ham (blacks). Some people mistakenly assumed that the curse meant that his ancestors would be inferior (i.e. blacks inferior to whites). The true curse, however, was that Ham would not win or become more prosperous than his brothers, not that his descendants would be inferior. This is how many people in the U.S. and Britain excused the practice of slavery for many years and still felt that they were good Christians.
Therefore, first thing the Bible teaches us about prejudice is that it goes against God's basic law to love and treat others like self because God is love and we all come from Adam.
2. The Example of Jesus – Luke 10:30-37
The Old Testament specifically taught that all men were created from one man and then later in Exodus 19:5-6 that's God's people were to specifically not make any distinctions.
If this wasn't enough, Jesus in the New Testament gives us the example that teaches us about the equality of people and how Christians should treat everyone.
The parable of the "Good Samaritan" shows that Christians are not to treat anyone as inferior.
30Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' 36Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" 37And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
- Luke 10:30-37
Some background facts:
- Samaritans were hated by Jews because they were half-breeds (part Jewish, part foreign, pagan nation).
- If priests and Levites touched dead bodies, they would not be able to serve at the temple without going through a special ritual of cleansing, it would be an inconvenience.
- Note, they were heading away from Jerusalem.
- We don't know what the victim was, just that he was a victim.
The point is that your "neighbor" is everybody, not just the person who looks, thinks, and believes like you. No one is inferior, no one is unworthy of receiving love, help, and compassion. Jesus died for everyone, black, white, and in between. We don't have equal gifts and abilities, but we are equally valuable in God's eyes and worthy of love. Mission work sees every soul of equal value.
3. The Goal for Christians
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:26
In the world people either go to war with those who are different, or in a best-case scenario, they try to live in peace and accept each other as they are. In the church, however, we go one step further. Our goal in the church is not to win or just to tolerate each other or even live in peace – our goal in the church is to become one, to be united.
Once one becomes a Christian, his/her main identity is not man, woman, black, white, rich, or poor – the main identity is, "I am a Christian and I accept you because you are a Christian." This passage does not erase our differences, it calls on us to be united despite our differences. This is a better result that the division caused by the Critical Race Theory.
Therefore, prejudice is judging without knowing or criticism and rejection based on differences (skin, language, etc.). The Bible teaches:
- God loves all, we should love all.
- All people are related as humans and may have different abilities and opportunities, but all are equal and valuable.
- A Christian's goal is to love all people and be one with all Christians.
This brings us together and does not create more division and misunderstanding.
How to overcome prejudice if this is your problem:
- Recognize that it's a sin and God will punish you for it. This is always good motivation to change your attitude.
- Judge people on what you know, not just what you feel or what others have said, and judge them one at a time. No one person speaks for an entire race. Imagine if we judged white people based only on Hitler!
- Realize that nobody is perfect. Everyone has weaknesses. Let's have mercy on others if you want them to have mercy on you.
The only prejudice you can eliminate in this world is your own. It begins with you, it begins today.
Now, the main problem we as Christians face today is that we're accused of various kinds of prejudice because we reject certain types of behavior. For example, the Bible plainly teaches that homosexual practice is wrong because it is expressly forbidden by God (Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-10, I Timothy 1:9-10).
If we reject homosexual or any sexual practice that goes against Bible teaching (too many to mention) or say that practices that violate the one man and one woman for life principle of marriage, we're accused of being prejudice and called all of the phobic words for it. If it's gay sex among people of color, then we're racist.
Now, they could accuse us of being too prudish; overly zealous or self-righteous and at least their accusations would be in context. We are judging behavior that is forbidden by the Bible and since they don't accept the Bible as authority, they reject us as well as our conclusions rejecting their behavior. This goes for any behavior that is unbiblical in nature and practice:
- Lifting up one race over another (KKK, BLM)
- Lifting one gender over another (feminists, LGBTQ+)
- Lifting a political ideology over Christianity by force (communist, fascists)
- Lifting an ideology over that which maintains social order and peace (anarchists-ANTIFA, etc., SJW)
Accusing Christians of prejudice because we call out bad behavior that is anti-biblical, anti-spiritual, and downright sinful is just their way of shutting us up! There is no faster way of cancelling or shutting down a voice proclaiming the gospel or denouncing sin than by labelling that person a racist or being prejudice. What are we to do then? Don't be quiet and continue to speak out:
- Speak out against prejudice and behave as God has taught us to behave. We are all equally valuable before God. This is the starting point for all human relationships.
- Speak out and shine the light on bad behavior and false ideas that run contrary to God's Word. Paul says that the church is the pillar and support of the truth (I Timothy 3:15).
As Christians, we maintain the truth and serve God by declaring the truth about all matters even if that brings push-back and angry, but empty accusations or prejudice. In the end God, Who has the knowledge and the right to judge, will determine who spoke the truth and behaved according to His Word. So long as we follow His Word in how we act and what we say, we should have no fear of either man's or God's judgement.
In closing let me say that I hope that this book has been useful, informative, and edifying. God bless you as you seek to know His will and purpose for your life.