A few years ago we had a gift exchange “game” at a Christmas party I attended. Each person drew a number, and starting at number 1, they picked a gift from the gift table or from someone who had already opened a gift that they wanted. If they took someone else’s gift, the other person would have to get a new gift.
I had bought a beautiful, amber-colored, crystal candle holder, and because it was delicate, I wrapped it in brown paper so the label “fragile” would be easily visible.
My friend had number 40 and had to leave early, so she asked me to pick for her. The gift I had bought was still there, so I picked it for her.
Afterwards, a lady came up to me and complained that I had gotten the “good gifts”. (The one I had gotten for myself was small, and apparently as undesirable as the one wrapped in brown paper!)
Why are we so prone to making our judgements based on what something is wrapped in? The Bible says:
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
It seems that we humans tend to have this “need” (or is it just a habit) to size a person up and categorize them. The problem is, that once we’ve deemed them undesirable, we never open the gift to find out what that person is really like. We don’t even try.
But prejudice is not just about skin color or religious differences. All kinds of outer appearances can trigger the prejudice response.
As a child, some kids called me Ruthie toothie, because my teeth are too big for my mouth, and my parents didn’t have the money to get me braces. I’m still self-conscious about it at times even though people haven’t called me that for a long time. Really, though, what do physical appearances have to do with what’s inside?
When we meet a stranger, do our thoughts run something like this?
- S/he looks really different. I think I’ll go sit over there.
- Look at the way he’s dressed; I wonder if he’s homeless.
- Smoker? Eww.
- Bald? Nope, not my type.
- He looks like a mechanic; greasy hands, yep, we probably don’t have anything in common.
- She sounds really intellectual; I probably would make a fool of myself if I tried to talk to her.
- She sure is flighty! I’m not comfortable talking to flighty people.
- Or, she’s GORGEOUS, I’m so jealous. Forget it, I’m not talking to her!
- She always wears long skirts; I bet she’s one of those legalistic people.
- And the list goes on.
Do we think we’re doing a good job being friendly just by getting up the courage to say to a stranger, “Hi! How are you?” Then we move on?
And when we can’t move on
- because we are standing in the metro train together,
- or maybe we got assigned a seat next to someone on the airplane,
- or maybe there’s a visitor sitting in the pew at church right near where we always sit,
do we stick with small talk or get out our phones or laptops or books, pretending to be really busy?
I wonder, if Jesus were in our shoes in those situations, what would He do?
Differently than us?
Because He doesn’t care what color a person’s skin is, whether they have buck teeth or an unusual nose! He doesn’t care if they are dressed well or poorly. He doesn’t care if they are bald or frizzy-haired, thin or heavy set, weak or muscular. He doesn’t care if they are serious, flighty, intellectual, or not.
He is God.
- He made us.
- He knows us inside and out, warts and all, weaknesses and strengths, and He loves us.
- He is not proud, but humble.
- He has no fear. There is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18)
- He knows that we are not more intelligent than Him nor more beautiful than Him.
- He is secure in Who He is. He doesn’t need our approval.
What is important to Him is the condition of our heart.
So, how can we overcome our prejudices?
- Ask God to help us see people from His point of view. (1 Sam. 16:7)
- Invite Him to come in and clean up the pride of our hearts that grieves Him so. (1 John1:9)
- Confess our fears to God and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit of unconditional love. (1 Tim. 1:7)
- Recognize and remember that we all are created in God’s image and, therefore, are valuable to Him. (Gen. 1:26,27)
- Believe that, as such, we are beautiful to Him, but so are they.
- Ask God for wisdom and courage.
- Stand firm in who He says you are.
- Speak to others with kindness and respect.
- Show them honor by listening to what they have to say.
Overcoming prejudice starts with me and you. We can’t control what others think. We have to start by working on our own attitudes.
Then, watch the beautiful gifts emerge as we seek to unwrap the gifts God puts in our lives each day.
Linking up with: