When I was 28 years old, I found myself serving in my first pastorate in a little rural town in Texas. It was a place where people used the “N” word andargued about the KJV versus the NIV translation of the Bible in the same sentence. Everywhere I looked, people were wearing John Deere hats and had guns inthe back of their pickups.
It is suffice to say, this town was a completely different world for me!
For the next year and a half, I just thought how everyone in that town was so narrow and bigoted and redneck. Then, one day, God whispered to me and said,“You know what, Chip? I love these people. I sent you here to love them, but you’re not doing very well. All you do is judge them. You think they’reall the same. And you don’t see them the way I see them.”
So I went on a journey to learn how to love people that were very different from me. And I came to realize that I was deeply prejudiced.
I also discovered that everybody – to some degree – is prejudiced.
The fact is we’re all born into a cultural bias. We all grow up in a family, in a culture, with a religious orientation, and with a certain language.
And apart from interaction outside our own group or family, we grow up assuming our view of life accurately defines reality.
As kids, we naturally believe people within our own group when they say things like, “This is what’s true about black people…” or “This is what’s true about those white people…” or “This is what’s true about people from the South…”
These biases shape our prejudices, which then become barriers that prevent us from truly loving people who are different than us. Our prejudices can evenlead to racial violence, terrorism, and genocide. Just think of words like Rwanda, South Africa, and most recently: Ferguson, Orlando, Batton Rouge andDallas.
You see, ultimately, prejudice results in the fulfillment of Satan’s agenda – to kill, steal and destroy.
It’s an agenda rooted in the mentality of “We’re better, and we’re superior” and even goes so far as to dehumanize those who are different from us, so thatwhen we do terrible things we can justify our actions.
Some of us might be thinking right now: “Well, I’m not that prejudiced. I would never hurt someone!”
Keep in mind that it’s common for Christians to not identify themselves as being very prejudiced because we usually don’t demonstrate our prejudice withour behavior. We do it with our thoughts. We look at people and we judge them in our minds, and sometimes even subconsciously.
And here’s the subtle, yet diabolical, problem with this:
Prejudice – even in our minds – creates walls between individuals and groups, preventing us from sharing God’s love and the gospel with other people.
I’ve learned that there’s only one thing that’s strong enough to break down the walls of prejudice: it’s the power of the Holy Spirit. And it begins withus asking God to help us see people the way He does.
“God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
As Christians, we need to look at people who are very different than us through the lens of eternity and through the lens of their need. We need to realizethat they have insecurities. They have struggles. They’ve been through pain.
I’ll never forget one day when I walked into the Wagon Wheel, the one restaurant at the time in rural Texas, and a guy wearing a John Deere hat yelled out,“Hey! There’s that new preacher boy that’s over there at Country Bible Church!”
I didn’t like being called “preacher boy,” so I got real irritated. And I began to pray, “God, would you help me see him the way you see him?”
Then I decided, because that guy irritated me so much, I’d go up and ask him if I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. When he agreed, I juststarted asking him questions about himself.
It didn’t happen right away, but by taking small steps, I began to make progress toward changing my attitude, my thoughts and my actions toward the peoplein that town I had been judging for so long.
I didn’t change my deeply engrained prejudices just by “trying hard.” I needed to renew my mind as Romans 12:2 commands so that the HolySpirit could do the transforming work inside me.
What about you? What small steps could you take this week to renew your mind or connect with someone much different than you?
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Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip