daily Broadcast

Overcoming the Pain of Prejudice

From the series Unstuck

"Prejudice" means to pre-judge a person's value, worth, significance, or suitability. As Christians, we are not to pre-judge anyone. Chip reminds us that we are called to be Christ-like in all of our relationships and he walks us through five key steps to stop the painful cycle of prejudice.

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Message Transcript

Lean back, if you will, feel free to even close your eyes if you feel the freedom. I want to walk through some prisons that we’re in. And as I do all I want you to do in the next three or four minutes is ask yourself, “Which of these invisible chains might have me?”

Though there are no orange jumpsuits that tell us you’re a prisoner, some are trapped in the pain of your past, you’re in the solitary confinement that’s not San Quentin but you’re trapped in the prison of self-hatred, of a warped self-image. Others are doing time in superficial relationships and feel lonely and unloved because you secretly vowed never to be rejected again. For others you’re held captive by the fears of the future. The shattered dreams of your past have convinced you to play it safe and so now you play a very boring role, safe, mundane activities because you don’t want to get hurt again.

Some of us are prisoners of our perfectionism and our zeal to prove by our performance and appearance that, well, we’re really a somebody. And other people are prisoners of your dysfunctional family that taught you that you have to learn and you have to earn your love and that your worth has to be proven and your life experiences, no matter how hard you try, you never really feel like you measure up.

We’re all prisoners to one degree or another of the pain of our past. But God brought us together to remind us that you don’t have to remain stuck in it. It is tragic. But some of the patterns of thinking and some of the ways that you’ve been so ingrained with, you’re a prisoner.

And to think of the sorrow it brings Christ when He says, “I died in your place; I rose from the grave; my Spirit is deposited in you and you are free.” And whether it’s thinking you don’t measure up, or thinking you have to perform, or thinking that your family has destined you to this kind of life and you’re a second class citizen, or you’ve been through pain, or you’ve been through a separation, or your kids haven’t turned out and you feel like you’re a failure, or you’re wrestling with an addiction – God says there is hope.

And we have to believe and apply what’s true and trying hard doesn’t bring about change. Renewing your mind and allowing the Spirit of God to take your warped self-image to you believing, in your heart, that you are special and valued and loved and chosen. By taking the rejection that you’ve experienced and believing that every moment of every day, regardless of what anyone has ever told you or what you’ve experienced that Jesus looks at you, that the Father looks at you through the blood of His Son and He says, “You are accepted. And I love you today as much as I will ever love you, apart from anything you could ever do.”

And it’s exchanging that shattered dream and believing there is a certain hope and that life really is more than just about this little window of time and expectations, and the real dream is a real hope, of a real God, and there is a real heaven, and the real God of the real heaven, who created all that there is, visited the planet, took on human flesh, died personally in your place, rose from the dead, is preparing a place for you, and says, “Come.”

Well, in our time together today we, we’re going to look at the pain of prejudice. Because some people are prisoners of suspicion, and hate, and isolation. There have been people in your past that have made you feel bad, or small, or stupid, or unacceptable and they made you feel that way because of how you look, or how you talk, or where you came from, or how you don’t look.

There are others that have become the prisoners of our culture and upbringing and since you were little kids you learned that certain people are unlovely because they come from that denomination, or that part of the country, or that part of the world, or they have that color of skin, or they talk that way.

And it was just part of your upbringing. And you have a set of glasses and lenses that you don’t want to have, God doesn’t want you to have, but it’s so deeply ingrained that, unconsciously, you are prejudiced of certain people, and when you see them, you make snap judgments about what kind of people they are, based on things that have nothing to do with who they really are, but about how they look, and how they dress, or what they drive, and the weird part is that every group does that to one another, even in the body of Christ.

And so we receive the pain, and you feel isolated, and so we go into relationships suspicious, there are so many conversations that happen when you go to church, or go to a group, or meet some people and with the person that you trust either in the car, or late at night as you sit up and lean against the bed and you talk about other people.

God wants us to know there is a pain that occurs from prejudice and He wants us to be delivered from the prison of receiving prejudice, and He wants us to be free of being a prisoner of extending prejudice to other people.

Prejudice or prejudgment is a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known. It’s the act of prejudging the other person’s value, worth, significance, or suitability for inclusion within a group, based on appearance, race, cultural background, speech, nationality, gender, geography, or personal history. I mean that’s just Webster’s.

Before we dig in and solve the problem there are a couple questions I’d like to ask you. Have you ever been wounded by the pre-judgments of others? Have you ever really been deeply wounded by people assuming, or treating, or rejecting, or passing over you just because of things and you say to yourself, “They don’t even know me. Why would they treat me like that?”

Second question, it flips the coin, have you ever intentionally or unintentionally wounded others by pre-judging them? Have you ever just found yourself, you know, sometimes you just gravitate away or…

Have you even found yourself just unconsciously moving toward people that look like you, dress like you, you feel comfortable with and even almost without being aware of it, not talking to, not connecting with people that sound different, look different?

All I’m telling you, this pain of prejudice is received when we prejudge others and it is given as we prejudge others and others prejudge us.

And in Ephesians chapter 2 verses 11 to 22 there are two groups of people that, literally, for thousands of years hate one another. The word is “hostility,” it’s enmity. And what we’re going to get is a case study of overcoming prejudice. We’re going to look at verses 11 through 22 and then what I want to do is draw five very specific applications from this, about how we can overcome the pain of prejudice in our life.

First of all, you need to know there is a classic conflict. It’s Jew and Gentile. It’s long, it’s intense, it’s historical. The derogatory term for a Gentile, the Jews called the Gentiles, “dogs.”

A Jew would not go into the house, if a Gentile touched food a Jew would not eat it, there was a dividing wall.

Notice there is this classic conflict, it’s hostility, “Therefore, remember,” and he’s looking back on these first ten verses of, “remember you were lost in your sin. But the grace of God and God who is rich in mercy, it’s for by grace you’re saved through faith.”

And in verse 10 he says, “You’re His masterpiece, you’re His workmanship, you’ve been created in Christ Jesus unto a good work to walk and, therefore, remember that formerly,” he’s speaking that, “you Gentiles, by birth, are called ‘the uncircumcision.’” That’s a derogatory word. “By those who call themselves the ‘circumcision.’” That’s the Jews. “We’re superior.”

“But circumcision (that done in the body in the hands of men) – remember that at that time, prior to coming to Christ, you were one: separate from Christ. Two: excluded from citizenship in Israel. Three: foreigners to the covenants and the promise. Four: without hope. And, five: without God in the world.

The apostle Paul says, first and foremost to them, “You need to remember where you came from. You need to remember this division and this hostility.” And then he says, “This hostility has a supernatural solution and the supernatural solution is peace.”

He reminds these Gentiles that they’re culturally, historically, and spiritually, they were on the outside looking in. And there is a great divide. And until you remember where you came from and the great divide you’ll never appreciate the great solution.

And so notice what He says, verse 13, “But now,” strong contrast, “in Christ you Gentiles, who were once far away have been brought near,” well, how? “Through the blood of Christ,” well, why? “for He Himself is our peace who has made the two,” the Jew and the Gentile, “one and has destroyed the barrier and the dividing wall of hostility,” how did He do it? “by abolishing, in His flesh, the law with its commandments and its regulations.”

Interesting phrase here where He says, “Destroyed or nullified,” it means literally, “to make ineffective or without power.” Christ’s work destroyed, nullified, made ineffective, the barrier. And now he’s talking about the peace that Christ is going to bring. In fact, if you want to do a little Bible study, you can even do it as I talk, just scan this and every time the word “peace” comes up, circle it. You’re going to find yourself with about four or five circles.

Because what he’s talking about is a peace that occurs but it’s not some emotional peace. Notice, how does it happen? “By abolishing in His flesh the law and its commandments and regulations.” Then notice the purpose. “His purpose was to create in Himself one new man,” speaking of the church, “out of the two, thus making peace in this one body to reconcile,” or to restore, “both of them to God.”

Now Paul, you need to understand, does give us a lot of long sentences so put a parenthesis around, “through the cross,” because that’s the means in which He does it. He makes this one, new man, this new church, Jew, Gentile together, one body, and what they have in common? It is what Jesus did on the cross that makes them both acceptable before God. “…by which He put to death their hostility.”

He came and He preached what? Peace. “…to those who are far away,” who is that? The Gentiles. “…and peace to those who were near,” who is that? The Jews. “For through Him we both have,” put a box around the word “access,” “we have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

This word “access” was used in the Oriental culture for an official whose job was to connect visitors with the king. And what he’s saying is, and I mean, if you’re a Jew and you read this, you scratch your head and you go, “You gotta be kidding me.” And if you’re a Gentile, you say, “I can’t believe what this Jesus has done.”

Now think about this. Paul’s message here, “The proof, the unity, the peace,” he’s going to say, “this difference of what happens in these two groups will be an amazing evidence of the power and the reality of Christ.” In fact, it’s a powerful testimony of unity.

Notice that word “consequently,” in other words, “So what happened?” These two groups that were completely prejudiced, little boys and little girls for thousands of years that didn’t even know anything about the other person hated one another. “Consequently, you Gentiles are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people.”

Not only fellow citizens but you’re members of God’s household. Why? “Because you’re built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone,” or literally that tip of the angle of the structure that holds everything together.

“In Him,” Jesus, “the whole building,” this new church, “is being built together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” And put a little line under “temple” because it’s not just the normal, this isn’t the picture of the big temple. This is the word used in the New Testament for the inner chamber of worship.

This is a radical piece of literature. “And you become a dwelling in which,” what? “God’s Spirit lives and dwells.” It’s in the present tense. God presently, continually, His power and His presence is manifested through these two groups that were prejudiced toward one another and now become the evidence of the reality and the power of Jesus.

He’s talked to them about overcoming a warped self-image because they are chosen. He’s talked to them about overcoming rejection because they’ve been adopted. He says, “You can overcome shattered dreams and because you have a hope that no one can take.” And he says, “You gotta overcome the dysfunctional family that you had in Adam and was passed on to your parents and grandparents and all the rest because of this new, rich-in-mercy God.”

And then he says, “Now I’m making you into something new and you have a new family so regardless of where you’ve been or whatever anyone ever thought of you, you have peace. You have peace with God and you have peace with one another and this peace is going to be a testimony of unity to the watching world.”

Now, I think there are five principles that flow out of this in terms of, very specifically for us because it’s almost impossible for us to fathom what we’ve just read. I mean, some of you have come out of some situations and you’ve been in some other parts of the country and you maybe have an inkling but, I mean, the prejudice, the hate, the wars, the hostility, the animosity. And Christ changes the paradigm forever.

Peace replaces hostility, the two become one, centuries of hatred are buried, unity instead of division, love instead of hate, one instead of two - because Christ broke down this wall.
Now, how do we, in our world, stop the painful cycle of prejudice?

Principle number one: Remember your former condition. I get that from verses 11 and 12. Remember.

Well, what do I mean by that? Remember your standing apart from God. Remember what your life was like, where your destiny was headed, and the kind of person you were before Christ saved and forgave you, and came to dwell inside of you. That’s what he says to the Gentiles. It’s not until we grasp that it is by grace that we have been accepted, that we can begin to understand.

“Well wait, wait, wait, wait a second.” You know, those Jews’ problem is, “Well, we’re the circumcised and they’re the dogs, the uncircumcised.” And did you notice the little phrase? Paul said, “They’re the circumcised,” and then that little parenthetical phrase there where he says “by human hands.” You know what his point is? His point is is the circumcision they have is a physical circumcision, of an outward thing, that occurred out of their history and lineage, as Jews.

And Paul is saying: It’s meaningless to God. The only circumcision that God looks at is the circumcision of the heart. And so he’s saying to those Jews, “You know what? Your circumcision, your lineage, your background, your superiority, you getting the oracles of God – before Jesus, and apart from Jesus, man, you’re lost. You Gentiles, you were foreigners, you were aliens, you didn’t have any claim on God’s promises.”

“You better remember where you came from.” So, all of a sudden now everyone comes in as fellow sinners in need of grace instead of, “I’m superior or I’m better and I’m looking down my nose or I’m taking this position and judging other people.” And so I think the first thing is, we remember our former condition.

Principle number two: Realize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. It’s what, I mean to those Jews he’s saying, “That’s where you’re from,” to the Gentiles, “This is where you’re from,” it’s level. What makes you acceptable, what makes you worthy is what Jesus has done for you.

There is absolutely no basis to feel superior, to judge any human being with regard to their value, their worth, their suitability, their inclusion in your group on the basis of their race, or cultural background, or speech, or geography, or gender, or personal history, or dress.

God, I think, has a very unique sense of humor. I grew up in the suburbs. Okay? I mean both mom and dad are schoolteachers, the suburbs are, some of you will really get this, you know, the houses are real close together and you have driveway, little lawn, driveway, little lawn.

When you’re a little boy you go out, and every driveway is a first down. You play football in the front yard, the neighborhood school… everyone can almost walk to it. There are outdoor basketball courts, you live on asphalt, you play in the front yard, everyone knows one another, pretty white… you start out lower middle class, then I think we kind of made it to middle, middle class.

And that was just my whole world. Large, white suburb outside of Columbus, Ohio. And then, because of my passion for basketball, I ended up in the inner city a lot, and developed a lot of relationships with African Americans and then playing ball and going overseas. That became, actually, my mother once said, “You know, you look pretty white on the outside but your culture is all black on the inside.” All the music I listened to and all my friends, but it was just my world.

Well then, you know, you go to school and I meet Theresa and I want to be a basketball coach and God says, “That’s a good plan but not the best plan so I want you to coach the church, I don’t want you to coach basketball.” So, oh boy, you know, we went to school, went to grad school, and now I gotta go to seminary. You gotta be kidding.

So, we go to seminary and our very first church, thirty-two miles outside of Dallas. And I entered a world that I didn’t know existed. Okay? I mean, there is a town square, you know, and there are still the little circles where they put the horses. There are no, it’s less than three thousand people and there is one main drag, no stoplights.

And people, they pull up in their trucks, there are guns, real guns that shoot in the back of them. I mean, guns scared me, I’d never even seen a gun before. And people had John Deere hats. I thought John Deere was a lawnmower. I’m just telling you. And I just realized… And there were two restaurants, one on the one end of town and one on the other end of town: The Feed Store and the Wagon Wheel.

And when you walked into The Feed Store or the Wagon Wheel, “My breakin’ heart is a’lovin’ you, darlin’,” and it was just like, “Oh, Jesus, deliver me!” Now, I have come to like country music but, it was like, “Are you kidding?”

And then I’d meet these young guys and I thought it was a style, they had these little circles in the back of their jeans. I thought, “Where do you get the jeans with the little circles?” And where I come from you have a coke can to drink out of. They carried coke cans to spit in! I mean, literally, it’s like, “Ahhhhh!” you know? And then I thought… for those of you who are wondering what the circle is, this is Skoal and you put it in your cheek and all day, like this, and they talk to you like this all the time, [spitting sound], talk to you like this [spitting sound], like this all the time.

And, and so let me tell you something, I walked in and I still remember a guy, he would literally be, in my prejudiced view, let me just say this and get this out, an old geezer. John Deere hat, something in his jaw, I walk in, and in this kind of a whisper, “There’s that new preacher boy,

And I’m thinking, “God has sent me to purgatory.” And I’m serious. Now let me fast forward. In my journey there, that church taught me how to be a pastor, that church loved my wife and kids. What I realized was the problem wasn’t with the guy with the John Deere hat, the problem wasn’t with those kids with the Skoal, the problem was in my arrogance and pre-judging, I’m a suburban kid, I think everyone who looks or acts like that in any way is a redneck. Okay?

And now, I’m better than they are, I’m just telling you, this isn’t like what I ought, this is how I thought. I’m better than these people, I’m smarter than these people, I’m more sophisticated than these people, and God dropped me in this land of losers, except for all the people at the church owned all these businesses in Dallas, so I got all these rich, wealthy, powerful people, who I really respect, and I’m living in this town of, like, you’re kidding me!

And then, over the next eight years, I got to know some guys in John Deere hats. And I got to know a man who had one of his fingers cut off, who I watched God transform his life from literally a racist to watching him, as we built this church and God worked, and we kept a woodworking area, where I watched him teach little, black kids how to make things. And how we partnered with a black church across the street, and how we took the old gym that was condemned and remodeled it. And Blacks and Whites and Hispanics played basketball and then, Young Life used it on Monday night.

And here’s what I realized. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And the problem wasn’t them. The problem was me. They loved God. You can love God and spit in a can. You can love God and wear a John Deere hat. You can love God and have a gun in the back, and get on a horse, and then put on your nice clothes and be a businessman.

You know what? It was just a different culture. But, in my insecurity, I judged their culture as inferior because it was too threatening. And I’ve got to tell you, one of the greatest things that happened in my life was learning to love those people. Realize, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. You’re not better than anybody. And in your defenses, we all do this. This is not do you do this? We’re only talking about to what degree. It’s your defense mechanism. We all do this. And we just do it in different ways to different groups.

Third point from verses 17 and 18 is let your walls come down. Jesus said He destroyed the dividing wall! So, let your walls come down. Examine the unbiblical ways that you tend to pre-judge others.

That’s the whole deal. Prejudice, it’s just pre-judging. What’s the Scripture teach? Scripture teaches, “God doesn’t see as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord weighs the heart.”

How many of you can see anybody else’s heart? You can’t see in someone’s heart through the color of their skin, you can’t see someone’s heart through what automobile they drive, or what kind of jewelry they have, or don’t have or whether they have a tattoo or a piercing. You can’t see someone’s heart because they’re Reformed, or Dispensational, or Charismatic, or Pentecostal, or Baptist. You can’t see their heart, you don’t know what they believe, you don’t know where they’re coming from, you don’t know where they’ve been. But God does. So, you’ve got to let the walls come down.

I remember, that was phase one of my journey and I don’t think the phases ever end but phase one was learning to love very country, John Deere, pick-up truck-with-guns people. And I think God said “You still have a lot to learn, so let’s try something else. And so, I’m going to take you…” you think the leaders of this church either had a lot of faith or were completely naïve. Let’s see, “This guy has been in that community, he’ll fit perfectly in Santa Cruz, California.”

Santa Cruz is not only the epicenter of the earthquake, it’s the epicenter of alternative culture. And whatever alternative could or may mean, multiply it by a hundred. It has a university called The University of California at Santa Cruz that thinks Berkeley is way too far right. It has, it’s just weird.

So here I am. I finally can love a John Deere hat guy with a gun and then I walk in and here’s, like, “Oh my gosh.” You know, these two girls are holding hands and kissing in the restaurant over here, and then the guy with the dreadlocks over here and, it’s just like… And then, there is this individualism, entitlement…

Well, in Santa Cruz it’s on steroids. So, the bike path is, holy, holy. And then the pedestrians are the holy of holies. So, people just walk around and you slam on your brakes, and they don’t even look at you. It’s just…

So, I get two years, I don’t even like these people. I’m supposed to pastor and love these people, I don’t like them. And their lifestyles and piercing to me was what you do when you put bolts together… not in the nose, and in the tongue, and in the… you know how you’re inside… I’m frustrated. Man, what’s with these people? Why don’t they get a life? Everyone is New Age this, crystals are everywhere, and you go to a coffee shop and, here’s how to… our witch, or warlocks meet… and we’re casting… And it was just like, “Kaufman was awesome, Lord!” You know?

And I remember one day someone walking across like that, and I’m in my car, and you know when you’re talking out loud in your car? Not a good sign. “What’s with these people, God? I don’t really... You know, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And… look at this and… and there is immorality here and…”

And, I just literally… the Spirit of God said, “Chip, I love these people. I love these people. I brought you here. I want to love them through you.”

And I think there are times where we just have to repent. And I remember just thinking, “You know who the unholy person here is? You know who the person that has big needs? It’s not the people tattooed, or pierced, or with Rastafarian hair, or – it’s me!” I pre-judged everybody!

See, when you’re in the suburbs you kind of have this, “We’re, you know…” everyone does this about life. Like, these people are over here, and these people are over here, and here’s what you are, you’re in the middle, balanced. It’s what you do! We all do it. Right?

I was teaching and working through this and asking… the only way… you can’t will yourself into this. So, “God, will You give me Your love?”

So, I started memorizing verses, “Man sees not as God sees,” and there in 2nd Corinthians 5, he talks about, “For even though we knew Christ according to the flesh we know Him thus no longer,” speaking of not judging people on the outside and so I’m memorizing verses, asking God to help me, help me to love people.

And so, I’m preaching, I’m there about three years and I’m starting to make some progress and there is this guy, and he’s in a dress. That’s a little over the limit for me. And he’s got the dreadlocks down to about here, and he’s on the front row. And as I’m teaching, he’s smiling, with this sort of goofy smile. “Yeah,” nodding his head. And I’m just thinking…

So, I get done and where I was you can never make it to the back of the room. You just come down and people talk and you share. And so, I get done and this guy starts coming towards me and I’m thinking, “Oh my.” And he has this woven hat, and the dreadlocks, and this dress, multi-colored, and I don’t know where he’s from. By the time he’s three feet from me, the last bath he had was many, many months ago.

“Brother Chip! Thank you so much!” And he hugs me and just holds me. And he goes, “I just have to tell you,” he said, “I live out on the streets, it’s where God’s called me to be but I’ve been listening to these CDs and things and God is, I just had to come and, thank you so…!” He’s a missionary.

We later called him Dan, Dan the Hippyman. And he played the flute and he was really good. And later we got into doing some discipleship and he walks across America. Literally walks! Shares Christ with everyone who could breathe. Sleeps outside on purpose. And then he gets about halfway across America and he ran into a couple cults and I don’t know how he did it but he emailed me and said, “I got a question about this, this, this, and this.”

And I said, “Dan, Dan Hippyman, maybe you need a little bit more training because, man, you’re in over your head and I can’t do this long distance.” So he walks back, hangs out at the church for another two or three years, gets some training, meets a girl that’s as weird as he is! And she dresses the same way. They get married and are called by God to be homeless street people in Europe to share Christ. And if you met him, believe me, initially, you would be afraid. And I will tell you, I don’t know that I have met anyone that has a purer heart toward God.

We need to recognize where we came from, number one; we need to understand the ground is level at the cross, number two; we need to let the walls come down, number three; and then reconciliation in God’s family is not an option to be considered but a fact to be experienced. This is not, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were this way?” Jesus did it! He broke down the wall. He expects every child of God, every son, every daughter, to be a wall-breaker, to see people the way He sees people.

And finally, recognize that God’s presence dwells where unity prevails. I mean, when you see people break out of the stereotypes and love one another, the fragrance and the presence and the power of Christ is unleashed and revealed.