Prejudice has a relatively narrow definition in our society. God’s definition is much broader and more thorough. Not only does God make it clear He does not show favoritism, but that He also expects Christians to reflect his love accurately to everyone we meet.
This means we need to train our children to not only refuse to jump to negative conclusions about people based solely on external factors, but also to avoid showing favoritism to those whom they want to impress based on external factors.
Often without even realizing it, parents pass on prejudices to their children. It may not be about race, but where a person was raised or went to school. It feels so natural to pre-judge people based on patterns we may have noticed in others, that we often dismiss it as being cautious or wise. In God’s eyes though, it is sinful.
So how can we train our children to love everyone the way God would love them? It’s not always easy, but here are some ideas to help you teach your children how to accurately reflect God’s love to others.
- Teach your children to not assume anything about anyone. Just because someone looks or speaks a certain way does not mean they will like certain foods, music, etc. Teach your children to ask questions when they meet someone new, not supply assumptions. “What kind of music do you enjoy?” is much more loving than “So, I guess you are in to salsa music since your grandparents were from Mexico.”
- Be hospitable to a large variety of people. You don’t have to host large parties, but make sure you entertain all types of people. A large part of prejudice comes from ignorance. Getting to know people as individuals helps erase a lot of preconceived ideas. It is very difficult to act unloving towards an entire group of people when you love people within that group.
- Teach your children humility about the gifts God has given them. Sometimes prejudice comes from a feeling of superiority. Realizing God has gifted everyone in different ways and all have equal value to God will erase a lot of feelings of negativity towards people who are gifted differently than you and your family. Realizing and acknowledging that intelligence, athleticism, artistry, etc. are actually gifts from God should help your children avoiding feeling superior to people who do not have the same gifts as they do.
- Avoid using the words “I feel sorry for them because…”. Ironically, what sounds like empathy can actually disguise a feeling of superiority. Pity can cause someone to feel “less than” and does not reflect God’s love accurately towards others. Instead, seek to understand how that person feels and what their daily experience is like. Ask questions in loving ways (“Would you mind sharing with me…”) to allow people who live lives very differently from you to educate you on their daily experience. You may find some of your assumptions are very incorrect.
- Watch your tendency to show subtle favoritism if you say things like “You need to be extra careful because they have nice things” or “You need to wear a nicer outfit because they have a lot of money and everyone else will be dressed well”. Sometimes without even realizing it, we place people with money and/or power on a pedestal. In the book of James (chapter 2), God lets us know showing favoritism to people is sinful. Be careful to avoid pedestal placing and teach your children to avoid it as well.
- Educate your children about all sorts of cultures. Go to museums, plays, concerts. Read books and travel. Talk to people from different places. Find out what it is like to live all over the world. Understanding other cultures can teach your children that even though some cultures may tend towards certain likes and dislikes, every individual within that culture is different. Realizing every culture has a wide spectrum of likes and dislikes will curb the tendency to assume everyone likes the same things or thinks the same ways.
- Be aware of physical touch. I have had friends tell me that often they can sense someone is prejudiced against them because they seem to be afraid to touch them. If you are a hugger, you should hug everyone you meet equally. If you shake hands, one new person should get the same type of handshake as the next. Teach your children to express warmth equally to everyone they meet (Each child will vary in what feels comfortable to them, but all “new” people should receive the same physical respect whether that is a nod, handshake, kiss on the cheek, hug, etc.)
Finally, the chances are excellent your children will experience prejudice at some point in their lives. It may be based on their appearance, their talents, their background, their religion or a host of other things. It may mean they are treated “less than” or “better than”. Help your children learn to not allow prejudice to change their perception of themselves. Remind them God loves all of us equally. Teach them how to educate those who are obviously ignorant about them. Encourage them to let go of the hurt and anger the encounter may produce. Train them to love even those who act in very unloveable ways. It is yet another way to accurately reflect God’s love to others.