When I lived in New York City, I used to get tickled when people assumed I was honest just because I had a slight southern accent. At the same time, the people who thought I was less than intelligent because of that same accent really irritated me.
In the United States, we tend to think of prejudice as always having a negative impression based on someone’s race. Actually, prejudice is pre-judging anyone based on any aspect of them you can see or hear without knowing anything else about them. Often those judgments are negative, but sometimes people can be predisposed to like someone just because the person reminds them of themselves or someone else they like.
Peter learned an important lesson about prejudice in Acts chapter 10. In New Testament times, the Jews hated the Gentiles. They would even walk miles out of their way to avoid going through Samaria where people who were only partly Gentile lived. Yet, God made it clear to Peter (in a vision) God does not have favorites. God created all of us and loves each of us dearly.
Clearly if our children are going to accurately reflect God’s image, we have to raise them to love all people the way God does. Our society tries to make it abundantly clear racial discrimination is wrong, even if the principle is still frequently violated. Yet those very same people who condemn racial prejudice may openly admit hating people because of the region of the country they are from, the amount of higher education the person has had, the political party they support, the amount of money someone possesses or even the school the person attended.
I don’t find anywhere in the New Testament a verse that allows us to hate people or refuse to serve them or share our faith with them because of our prejudices. In fact, God even made sure we understood reverse prejudice is wrong too. In James chapter 2, James says showing partiality is a sin. Period. Showing favoritism to someone because they are wealthy or look like us is just as wrong in God’s eyes as being ugly to those who are different.
You may really want to teach your children to treat everyone equally with God’s love, but struggle with these issues yourself. Unfortunately, many people have heard prejudiced statements for and against people during much of their childhoods. Those tapes can not only make it more difficult to treat everyone impartially yourself, but also confuse you enough to make it difficult to raise your own children so they don’t have the same messages stored in their heads.
Listen to yourself and those around you. Are you surrounding yourself with thoughts and attitudes God would consider prejudiced against or partial towards particular groups of people? Do you catch yourself treating people differently because of the way they look or how much money or education they have? The first step in teaching our children anything is a realistic awareness of our own issues in that area. In my next post, I will give you some simple and not so simple things you can do to help raise children who understand the godly concept of impartiality and accurately reflect God’s love to everyone they encounter.