Don’t judge a book by its cover.
No, seriously… if you did, you might think that what follows is about puppies. Or cuteness.
Emma summed up prejudice pretty well by saying it is “when you decide how you feel about a person before you even get the chance to know them.” But you would never do that, would you?
Like when you meet someone your age with dark makeup around their eyes, wearing dark clothes and–presumably–thinking dark thoughts. You might think, “They’re evil.” But the truth might be, “They’re sad,” or “They’re severely disappointed,” or even, “They’re completely misguided.”
Miriam brought up what her pastor said from James chapter 2:
But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin.James 2:9 NLT
In this case, the example is of discrimination among rich and poor believers in the early Church. James warns against giving good seats to rich people while letting poor folks stand, or even sit on the floor.
If you find yourself discriminating like this… what should you do? First, forgive yourself–it is human nature.
“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7b NLT
Next, ask God for his Holy Spirit to fill you and change that tendency to judge by appearances. Then take some steps to correct your behavior with God’s help.
If, on the other hand, you find yourself being unfairly judged… you also have options. Your best one would be to remember that even Jesus himself was a victim of prejudice.
In John 7, the temple crowd accused him of being demon possessed and paranoid (verse 20). Jesus answered with an illustration and this command:
No matter which side of prejudice you end up on, go with Jesus on this one.
“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”John 7:24 NLT
Questions for Group Discussion
- When have you misjudged someone? If you are thinking you have not, you are misjudging yourself.
- When have you given one person preferential treatment over another? Was it right to do so? Is it ever right to give one person preferential treatment over another? What about in the case of honoring the elderly?
- When have you felt misjudged, or the victim of discrimination? Was it based on your appearance? If so, have you changed your appearance in response? If it was for another reason, what was your response?
- Is it prejudice to keep your distance from someone who makes you feel unsafe? What about deciding whether to hang out with someone based on their attitude? What about deciding whether to ride in a car with someone based on their appearance or actions? Does making safe decisions make you guilty of prejudice?
Challenge: You Be the Judge (or Don’t)
Here’s something for you to try, especially if you feel passionate against prejudice.
Your challenge is to make a new acquaintance at your school, work, or wherever you regularly spend time. Not just anybody, though–someone with whom you would not normally associate.
Maybe it is someone outside of your group of friends. Maybe it is someone outside of your ‘comfort zone.’ Maybe it is someone who is new to your area.
Whoever it may be, your challenge is to intentionally get to know them.
As with any challenge, there are guidelines:
- Do NOT spend time with someone who makes you feel unsafe.
- Choose someone in your age range. (Unless you are an adult–then choose another adult in any age range.)
- Keep your interactions casual. Try not to make a big deal out of getting to know them, thereby making things uncomfortable for them or you.
- It is a good idea to choose someone who is alone, or seems to need a friend.
- It is okay if the two of you do not become friends. The challenge is to get to know someone new, and greater understanding is the goal. Try not to pressure yourself into liking the person, or them into liking you.
Let us know your experience in the comments below!