Beyond the Message: Prejudice

Posted: April 5, 2007 in Student Ministry, Thinking Theologically

I just wanted to say to you students that I appreciate your honesty and responses to tackling this tough subject of prejudice last night. If you felt somewhat uncomfortable or were challenged to evaluate your thoughts and actions on this subject, then great!

Where do we go with this, though? I would hope that we aren’t ok with holding on to our prejudices, so here’s three things: (1) Reach out, make the effort to get to know someone, (2) Watch your words and (3) Learn to respect and celebrate differences.

Reach out, make the effort to get to know someone. The simplest answer to dealing with our prejudices is to make friends. If prejudice builds walls then the opposite of that is to build bridges to other people and to make friendships. I would like to suggest to you that you see people as human and not just as skin color, not just as style of clothes or whatever. There’s more in common than you might suspect. We are all a bundle of talents and hopes and fears and dreams and insecurities. Reach out and make a friend. That’s how you can do something with your prejudice.

Watch your words. I’ve always been amazed and really hurt when I’ve heard some of the jokes or harsh words that students in my ministry, people in my family and even myself have said. I think about some of the stuff we say to each other and when we say words that cut and kill one another. Usually these careless words are rationalized away by saying, it’s just a joke. I just was kidding. People say that as if a joke were powerless to wound and rip and tear someone to pieces. I firmly believe that if most of us would just shut our mouths a lot of damage would be avoided. If we would just watch what’s happening in this little two-inch area of our body and just be more sensitive, more compassionate with our mouths then a lot of pain wouldn’t happen, wouldn’t exist.

The last one says learn to respect and celebrate differences. Again, this series and this message is about speaking the truth to you. Differences do exist. I don’t think we should ignore differences. I don’t think we should pretend they’re not there or deny them. We need to acknowledge them and realize they’re there.

There’s differences between the way people talk and the way people think about family and the way people even worship God. It’s important if you’re going to reach out is how can you respect these differences where you can look at them and think, “That kind of bothers me but I’m going to respect it.” I think we should move to an area of respect where you can look at someone and say, “That’s great about you, about your culture.” Then finally celebrate. That just means to be excited with somebody about their differences. I think that is the key, the final place, when you can be with someone who is totally different from you and be excited about their differences and not let that bother you.

We’ve talked about a simple problem. It’s simple to describe. Prejudice just means judging others based on fear or inaccurate assumptions. Even though this is a simple problem – the consequences are devastating. We talked about a solution and it’s a simple solution to just put some steps on a page and say, reach out in friendship. But even though it’s simple, it’s so difficult, it’s hard.

I encourage you to take a hard look at your life, get some time alone today, maybe before you go to bed, maybe it’s just 10 minutes or whatever. Stop and think, is prejudice an area of your life where God wants to work? If so, it’s my prayer that you can open yourself up to His leading.

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