Recently, I was intrigued by Mark Cuban’s comments regarding stereotyping and prejudice. To sum it up, he described how everybody has certain biases, prejudices and stereotypes about people. Surfacing in the wake of Donald Sterling’s incident, it stirred up a lot of buzz and media attention, especially on ESPN which revolved around Cuban’s comments almost non-stop for an entire week. It’s a pressing issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Living in a fallen world plagued by sin, prejudice has always marked the human condition in some form or fashion. Light skin prejudiced against dark skin. Men prejudiced against women. Rich prejudiced against poor. Lifestyle prejudices. Religious prejudices. Food-eating prejudices. Unfortunately, humanity tends to drift towards fear of others. Fear of what we don’t understand. Fear of what we fail to empathize with.
The problem is that most people don’t think they are prejudice. Most people don’t articulate a major prejudice. Most don’t get into trouble like Donald Sterling with public comments. But honestly, we all have certain prejudices that – when acted upon – cause others to feel inferior. It happens when a vegetarian looks down on his friend ordering a burger. It happens when we glance at somebody dressed in unusual clothes. It happens when we label certain parts of town. It happens when we stir up debate with those we know have different political and/or social views than us. It happens when we let our personal views become the standard by which everyone should live by.
I encountered one of these moments about a month ago – in a place I least expected to observe prejudice. I happened to be visiting a divinity school with the possibility of attending there. One of the professors was giving a lecture on the history and evolution of contemporary worship music. I was intrigued. As the lecture went on I became more and more aware that this was not really a lecture for the purpose of educational knowledge, but for argumentative defense of a very clear bias: that contemporary worship music is a distortion of formal worship.
I was not bothered by the fact that he had a different opinion than me. Coming from a liberal arts school, I’m used to that. I was not even bothered that he didn’t really care for contemporary worship music or “mega-churches.” What bothered me was that this professor attempted to ridicule others who go to big churches and/or worship in a contemporary style, saying that they can’t see God as clearly.
This is a reflection of a major problem existing in religious circles. Prejudice towards a certain way of experiencing “religion” is eating away at the very lifeline of the body of Christ. Causing division. Causing resentment. Killing diversity. Killing community. All that’s left are people fighting. People fighting over budgets. Fighting over carpet colors. Fighting over methods. Fighting over church music. Surely, there are more important issues than this.
But after that lecture, my thoughts started to change. I started to be reminded of all the times I have been prejudiced towards other people. The Lord really convicted me of a lot of viewpoints I had. I kept thinking of all the times that I secretly judge other people who don’t go to the kind of church that I go to, or have different stances on social issues, or have certain lifestyle habits. I realized that I can be just as prejudice as that professor was. I am just as guilty. That experience has really softened my heart to come to the realization that difference and opposition is inevitable. And it’s okay. All that matters is that I show all people Christ’s love. And when it comes to disagreeing with Christians about the way we experience God, I have to step back and acknowledge that my way of experiencing God is not everybody’s way. Jesus relates to all people differently. And each church is unique and can be uniquely celebrated and worshipful. That doesn’t mean that we should compromise what we believe when it comes to biblical doctrine and theology. But it does mean that we should accept others for how they do church and pray that we all can learn collectively about Jesus from how He works uniquely in each of our lives.
The only antidote to prejudice within the church is a deeper understanding of how and who God created us to be. Then, division because of differences might be converted into multiplication because of differences. In Romans 12:4-6, Paul writes, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given us, we have different gifts.” Psalm 139 also talks about individuality and diversity in the way that God created each one of us. We were created to embrace diversity for the sake of strengthening one another with the various gifts we have to offer. We were created to work together.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” A masterpiece illustrates multiplicity at its best. It illustrates the beauty of many layers, colors, and hues all working together as a brilliant piece of art. So together as the body of Christ, we are His masterpiece. Not one person. Not one church. But as all of the people and all of the churches unite together in Christ, we are His masterpiece. Once a church understands that diversity is a good thing, they will grow exponentially as more people feel welcome and they develop more ministries to reach out to a variety of different people.
As we work together to accomplish His will on the earth, we are able to achieve far more than we ever could on our own. But in order to be productive contributors towards that cause, we must prepare ourselves to be individuals who are accepting, compassionate, and empathetic towards different kinds of people. We must relish the opportunity to learn from others. This only happens when we surrender to Christ and let Him transform our minds as it says in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.”
Then, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that “we have the mind of Christ.” (emphasis mine). It is ours. And His mind enables us to think the way He thinks and see the way He sees. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Without the mind of Christ, we are susceptible to our natural, human way of seeing and thinking. We are without hope to see others beyond the surface. But since we – who have chosen to surrender to His lordship – have the mind of Christ, we too can see the heart just as the Lord sees it. We are able to see others for who they are on the inside, instead of what they appear to be on the outside. Our mind is not at the mercy of prejudice. And we are profitable to the body of Christ.
But if we are not persistent in training our minds to be transformed and renewed to be like Christ, we will struggle to win the war of prejudice. Really, we will struggle to win any kind of assault on our mind. It’s not humanly possible for us to do so. We need God’s help. And with his help, we find strength in our time of need. As we let Jesus help us in this battlefield of the mind, we are more apt to overcome any inclinations towards prejudice. And we are more gracious whenever we encounter those who have yet to let go of the prejudices they still possess. We can take the chance to analyze our own hearts and lives to see if there is any wayward way within us so that we can change and be a light to others. Then we will come to experience God’s beauty and His Spirit as He shows Himself to be the author and creator of a world full of rich diversity.
“The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.” -Psalm 24:1-2-
Questions for Today:
- What unique gifts do I have to offer my church and my community?
- What prejudice is keeping me back from contributing to the body of Christ?
- How can I let God renew and transform my mind?
- What next step is God challenging me to take in my walk with Him?