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Agenda # 5 - Perpetuate Prejudice, Part 2

From the series Diabolical

How do you combat prejudice? How do you break the stronghold of generational discrimination? Chip unpacks six principles, from Acts Chapter 10, that help you identify and confront the prejudice around you.

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Message Transcript

Let me give you the six principles that I’ve learned personally and I hope they’ll be helpful for you. Principle number one from verses 1 through 8. God is working in places and among people we assume He doesn’t. Okay?

He’s working in places and among people. If you would have asked Peter, “Do you think God is speaking to some of those Roman soldiers that are oppressing your people?” Peter would have said, “No way.” Practice. Assume God is speaking to everyone everywhere and wants to use you.

Principle number two: prayer is the prerequisite to seeing others differently than our cultural bias, out of verses 9 through 16. Good Jews prayed in the morning and they prayed at night. There was a three-hour prayer meeting as well. But Peter was just hungry. And he decided, “I’m going to go on the roof.” And he’s talking with God.

Unless your mind gets renewed, and unless you’re talking with God and being open and honest, He can’t reveal things to you. So you stay stuck in your little box of your group and your background. You have yours, I have mine, everyone has theirs.

Prayer is the prerequisite to seeing others different than our cultural bias. Because Peter met with God, he could hear God. And God prepared him. All that stuff about the sheep and the animals. He goes, “Oh, I get it.” Don’t call anything unclean that God calls pure. And so here’s the practice. Ask God to let you see others the way He does.

Three, walls of prejudice often come down a few bricks at a time, from verses 17 to 23. Peter didn’t go from this diehard, prejudiced, Jew with Gentiles. You know? First of all, it was like, you know, “I’m kind of far away from the home base here in Jerusalem. I’ll just stay with this tanner. I mean, he’s ceremonially unclean but, you know, it’s a little baby step.”

And then pretty soon, when Cornelius’ guys come, he let them in the house. Then he traveled with them. He did a lot of baby steps that were absolutely forbidden.

And I can only think that he knew, you know, like, I love one translation says, it says, “When he crossed the threshold,” when he went inside that Gentile house, it was like, “Uh-oh, baby, there’s no turning back. I have just violated everything that I have been taught all my life. I’m in the house of a dog. But you know what? That’s my opinion. That is my prejudice. No, I’m in the house of a God-fearing man that the Spirit of God is wooing, and drawing, and actually sent an angel, and God cares about him, so I need to care about him, and I need to put away my stuff and my prejudice, and my background, and what anybody else thinks, and I need to love him and share the love of Christ.”

And he did. And you’re here today because he did, fellow Gentile. And so here’s the practice. The practice is: take small steps this week to connect with someone much different than you. And you know what? Just take some baby…let’s start taking some bricks off the wall, okay?

So, for me? It was like, I decided, because that guy irritated me so much, I walked in and I said, “Could I sit down?” You know, there’s like four or five guys drinking coffee every morning, John Deere hats, the whole…

And I, so, “Could I sit down?” And he looked at me like, “You, preacher boy?” That’s what they called me. I did not like that.

And I said, “Hey, tell me a little bit about where you get those hats? “Well…” “So, do you have a ranch or something?” “Well, yeah. We come…”

I just started asking questions. I mean, I thought John Deere was a lawnmower. Okay, I’m from the city. I don’t know anything. And I remember, in Santa Cruz when I would find situations that were just so appalling to me, I, you know, they’re protesting our church and we’re bashing them, and so I called the mayor and said, “Would you like to have lunch?” This is the mayor of Santa Cruz.

He graduated from Berkeley, and he thinks they’re too far right. Super ultra, ultra out there guy. And we had a two-hour lunch. And he came thinking, “Okay, I’m going to meet with this Bible-thumping, anti-intellectual bigot,” because that’s what they think all Christians are. And I think, here I am, this super guy who thinks alternative da, da, da, da.

And we had a two-hour lunch and here’s what I’ve got to tell you, two things. Number one, I liked him. It was almost disappointing. And you know? Two, I respected him. When I listened carefully to his intellectual presuppositions about how he viewed the world, what he did made sense. At least he was consistent with his vision and values and doing something.

What we both agreed on is we wanted to help the poor. And so I left that with, our church is going to help the poor, and he would help us help the poor, and we both kind of went away smiling going, “You know what? We totally disagree on almost everything with regard to a worldview but I think I just met a Christian that is not stupid, anti-intellectual, bigoted, Bible-thumping, jerk. You seem like a real person.” And I came away the same way.

And we began to see God open some doors, why? Now, I’d like to tell you that in the middle of lunch he bowed, prayed the prayer, is in the kingdom. But I took a few bricks off. And I didn’t let, in circles anymore, I didn’t let people talk about him the same way. “Hey, I know that guy. Now, I disagree with him but he’s really a nice guy. And he’s really trying to do some good.” And so you take steps, you take baby steps.

Four, obedience to God often alienates us from our group and is the price tag to take the good news across cultures. It’s verses 23 to 33. Peter violated hundreds of years of tradition and he gets flack for it. If you do what God wants you to do, some fellow Christians are going to say, “Why are you hanging out with them?” You’re going to make Christians feel uncomfortable.

Here’s the practice: choose to please God, not men. Choose to please God, not men. I remember a crossroads. We, in this small, rural town there was a lot of prejudice and two things happened. Number one, I started bringing black kids and Hispanic kids to church and I was called in downtown to a meeting of some leaders. Not all the leaders, just two or three – very powerful, very wealthy – who were part of starting the church.

And they basically said, “You know what? This is not really the kind of church we’re looking for and you need to keep your focus over here and we’re just not really equipped….”

And, I mean, they used all the sophisticated ways to say, “Look, we don’t want black kids and Hispanic kids coming to church.”

And I don’t know if you’ve ever been there but I was at a crossroads and I felt like, you know something? Galatians – memorizing Scripture was very helpful, then Galatians 1:10 came to my mind where the apostle Paul said, “If I please people, I can’t be a bondservant of Christ.”

And I remember looking at them and saying, “You know, guys, I know you brought me here, and you have a picture of a church, but Jesus has a picture of a church, and as long as I’m the pastor, I’ll tell you what, this is what I’m going to do because I’m thinking His vision is probably way more important than yours, and maybe if that’s not what you want to do…”

And, see, I tell every pastor, “You ought to have your resignation kind of written down somewhere in an envelope, keep it in your top desk drawer. And if you’re not willing to be fired, you’ll never be willing to stand up for what’s right.

And so I remember just saying, and you know something, it’s amazing. The power of the Gospel breaks through. Some of those same guys, three years later, when we remodeled the black high school that we bought and remodeled and began to partner with a black church across the street, those guys, I watched them in a shop helping small, black kids learn about Christ and learn a trade.

You know, it just takes one person like you at your work, at your neighborhood, at your health club to break a barrier. And when you do, God opens doors. But you’re going to have to please God, not please people.

I remember the second time for us was are we going to buy this, it was an abandoned, it was three or four acres and it was the black high school, and it was in disrepair. But it was really inexpensive. And we were going to buy it and remodel it.

And we had, you know, one of those big church meetings? The kind that aren’t good. Where people stand up and argue with one another. And, “We can’t do that, that’s in the black section of town and, you know, they’ll break the windows,” and on and on and on.

And it was, again, one of those moments of truth. We never had any vandalism. But it was someone else, you know, you kind of weigh it as a pastor. What’s going to happen here?

And I remember a young woman stood up and said, “If the love of Christ can’t transcend race in this town, then we have no business being here. I think it’s God’s choice spot for us.”

Now, when you do that, you know that two or three people that have a lot of money are going to fold their arms and go, “Well, I’m out.”

And you have to lovingly say, “Don’t let that door hit you too hard on the rear end on the way out.” Because you can’t allow…people will use politics, power, intimidation, and manipulation to keep you from doing what’s right.

And, by the way, when you do what’s right, there’s a price. It’s not Hollywood. It doesn’t mean, “Oh everything goes great.” I remember, we got, as a result of some of those moves, we got where if God didn’t show up with some money on a certain day at a certain time, we were done. And guess what, on that day, at a certain day, on that certain time, exactly what we needed came in. So choose to please God.

Practice [Principle] number five is the good news of the Gospel is for all people of all backgrounds in all places. That’s Peter’s sermon, verses 34 to 43. Peter said, “Wait. When we preach the Gospel, Pentecost occurred and He included the Jews. I didn’t even get done with my message, the exact same thing happened to the Gentiles.”

And Peter got new eyes. All of a sudden, all those Old Testament passages that he was skipping over about the nations, and the blessings through Abraham, and what God wanted to do for all people of all time – all of a sudden they started to pop.

See, you read your Bible, and I read my Bible through a lens. Try this: read your Bible for thirty days and just start looking for the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor. And see what the Bible says about the poor versus how you think about the poor.

Read the Psalms. Read the Proverbs and just look for the word “poor”. And you’ll realize, “Whoa. God really is, He doesn’t think they’re all bums. He doesn’t think they all just, if they worked harder.” Is that true in some cases? For sure. But that’s not what the Scripture says.

The practice here: Share the difference Jesus had made in your life with someone this week. Okay? I mean, we have to get out of, “I’m trying to be a good person, and I come to church, and I’m trying to do what God wants me to do.”

Jesus is the answer to the world’s needs and when we share what Jesus has done, and you don’t have to share all the four laws, you don’t have to become a flaming evangelist with a Bible this big in front of your desk or your cubicle or put up stickers everywhere.

What you need to do is incarnate the life of Jesus and begin, in normal ways, where just in the passing in a conversation and it’s a, even maybe even a work situation and you know, we’re so afraid of offending people. Get more afraid of them never hearing.

And do it winsomely. You know, the little statements like, “Oh, wow, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. You know, I went through a divorce. Apart from Jesus, I don’t know how I’d be here today.” “Your son is in ICU, would you mind if I prayed to the Lord Jesus?” Let’s get out of just this God, it means anything in our day.

“Can I pray for you?” Yeah, God, you know it can be anybody. Share Jesus. And just share it in normal kind of ways. Break through the barriers. And do it with someone different.

I have a new friend where I play a little pick-up basketball. His name is Junior. And Junior is a big guy and so he had a number of tattoos and I noticed he had some new ones that went up like this all the way up his neck and then curled around on his cheeks.

And I said, “Whoa, Junior, you got some new ones there.” He goes, “Yeah, man, they’re really, you know?” I said, “Well, what…” You know, he gave me a little background and see, I can tell you, ten years ago, if I saw that it’d be, like, yeeh. You know?

And then, later, you know, like, three weeks later I said, you know, how about things like, “Does it hurt?” Yeah it hurts! Well, so, instead of, “Why do you do it?” Or, “That looks weird.” Or, “So, tell me, what’s it mean to you? Tell me what…”

Have you ever wondered why people do that? Why don’t you ask them? You don’t have to judge them. So what’s going on?

Well, then he came back later and he has a shaved head. And he has, now, it’s sort of the hook cross that goes down like this and the tattoo goes all the way around. If I saw Junior on the street, man, I’d be terrified.

I’ve got to tell you, Junior is one of the nicest guys I know and Junior is my friend. In fact, he’s so kind he runs the rec center and so he said, “You know, Chip, it’s fun having you around.” And he figured out what I did and I just, in little ways, you know? He said, “How are you doing?” I said, “Well, I can’t play today but I need to get worked out. I’m preaching a big message about Jesus this weekend.” “Oh yeah? Really? Good.”

He knows where I’m coming from. And so he says, “Give me your phone number. So when the rec center is closed sometimes I open it up.” So couple weeks ago, I get this text: “Want to play ball?”

It was from Junior. You know, I don’t know where Junior is at spiritually but little by little, by little, by little, if someone doesn’t cross a barrier that’s different and love Junior, how will he ever know?

And I’m no flaming evangelist. As far as I know, the first four or five months, all he knew was, here’s some old, white guy trying to play ball still. Seriously. You know? And he wears a lot of braces. And over time we became friends. Who in your world is different from you that this week, this week, take a baby step. Pull a brick down.

Finally, number six. God refuses to allow Himself, or His ways, to be put in a box. Verses 44 through 46.

Acts chapter 10 is not a blueprint for the spiritual life. It’s historical. It’s a historical picture of how God includes people. It’s the picture of how this revolution of Jesus changed the world.

So, in Acts 2, they speak in tongues because it’s an external view of the Spirit has come upon the Jews. In Acts 8, it doesn’t say tongues but there’s an outward manifestation. There probably is. The Samaritans get in.

But notice that it happens at the time here. It happens later here. Now the Gentiles, it happens simultaneously. This isn’t a picture or a teaching about some second blessing.

This is a picture of Acts 2, 8, 10, and later in 19 we have a group that were traveling somewhere and they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. There is no formula in the book of Acts. How people, and when they believe, and sometimes they’re baptized before, sometimes they’re baptized afterwards.

Here’s what we do. We unconsciously assume, inside Christendom, that the way God works with us is how He’s going to work with everyone. Can I give you some real prejudice in the Church?

We got one group over here and we, you know why? Because it’s how you were trained. It’s God’s Word. It’s principles. We don’t want to get too emotional. Those people that raise their hands and dance around, they make me nervous.

And then that one guy said he had a vision from God, or he had this prompting from God, and you know what? There’s principles. We don’t want that experiential emotionalism. We’re going to be men and women of the Word.

And this group is over here going, “Hello, I love you, Lord. I love you, Lord. I had a vision last night. These people don’t get the Spirit. They’re just the frozen chosen. Oh, they just work principles, they’re just trying to work it out. They don’t get, they…”

And there’s prejudice. You need to love people that are different. Could it be that the Spirit of God wants to take the Word of God, with a group of people outside boxes and boundaries? Inside clear Scripture, and say, “Let’s change the world instead of judge one another.” Why do we have all these denominations? Because, basically, the arrogance and pride, our way is better, everyone else is out to lunch.

Here is the practice: refuse to assume that God will work in others the same way He’s worked in you.

Could I just ask you to please go on a journey and answer these questions? The first question is pretty easy. I think you can answer why we’re all prejudiced. It’s just kind of, my prayer for you and me is that our number goes down. You’ve got a number and I’ve got one. It’s just that it goes down.

I’d like you to think about how prejudice has really negatively affected other people. You know, sometimes when you look at it out there, it kind of helps you realize how diabolical it is.

And then, third, which of these six principles, which one as I was going through it there was a little, sort of a loving dagger that said, “Ooh, you need to listen to this.” Put a star by that one. And then, who or what group of people do you find yourself judging?

Just as I kind of threw stuff around. Is it an ethnic issue? Is it a wealth issue? Is it a background issue?  Is it people from different parts of the world issue? Is it a work issue? Is it an envy…? I don’t know. I’ve got it. You’ve got it.

Then what if you, number five, could let the walls down? What if you started praying for a specific person? Tried to understand them. Ask a question. Shared a meal. Maybe, if appropriate, ask them to forgive you.

And, finally, I want to close with this. Can you imagine, would you please? Can you imagine what God would do, and what would happen, if an inter-generational, that means young people admire old people instead of, “They don’t know anything.”

And old people would look at young people instead of, “And they’re always too loud and trying to do this,” and would mentor them instead. Inter-generational, inter-racial, inter-gender, inter-political, where Jesus would be the center and we would so move beyond our prejudice and love each other here. What would God do? What would God do?

It’s not some big thing that some important person – an enlisted soldier, and a blue-collar fisherman changed the world. You are the answer to breaking down the walls in someone’s life.