This Week’s Question: Does the Bible refer to prejudicial or discriminatory actions in Scriptures other than James? If so, where, and what is the context?
No other Biblical writer addresses prejudice or discrimination as comprehensively as James, but other books have nuggets to understand why prejudice and discrimination are anathema to God. Genesis 1:26a, and 27 are great verses for initiating this discussion, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The truth is all men, women, and children are made in the likeness of God, so there is no justifiable basis for someone to treat, discriminatorily, another person with different physical or social characteristics.
Peter affirms that position in his visit to Cornelius, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’ (Acts 10:34-35).” Although Peter’s visit violated Jewish law, he was given clearance by the Holy Spirit to violate that law since Christ broke all walls of separation. Peter justified his visit by saying, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).” It seems clear that these words apply to everyone and all circumstances both then and now. Therefore, any intentional discrimination is self-imposed, and pits the perpetrator against God.
Paul used Jesus’ kenosis as a model for others to emulate by declaring, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). To save a dying world, Jesus shed His divinity to become a servant which is contrary to many today who fight aggressively to maintain his/her power, prestige, and position. The problem is the privileges they may receive in this life will eventually be lost because according to Matthew 5:5, it is the meek who will inherit the Earth. The bottom-line is a person should not think too highly of him- or her-self, and should treat all others with respect, honor, and esteem.
John captures the essence of the problem of discrimination as the abandonment of love in several of his first epistle passages. In I John 2:9-11 he writes, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves .his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” This proposition is frightening for “Christians” who discriminate because Jesus says (this is a paraphrase), when someone thinks he/she is walking in the light but are actually walking in darkness, how deep is that darkness (Matthew 6:23)?”
In I John 3:15-18 readers are challenged to put love into action when John writes, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” It is important that John equates someone who hates a brother or sister to a murderer, which does not bode well for purveyors of past, present or future discrimination. John also makes it very difficult for anyone who lives according to God’s moral code to remain ambivalent of injustice. John’s charge is to take sides with the needy!
Based upon these passages, more people need the love John wrote about, and the evidence of that love is more people would be engaged in fighting the social ills that have plagued America for hundreds of years. Among them are an ongoing fight for civil rights; immigrant rights domestically and at the border; climate change so the world our children inhabit is livable; and Native American rights since they are the only non-immigrants living in this country! Unfortunately, all that was rightfully theirs was stolen due to the greed, pride, and prejudice that are denounced by the above passages.
Next Week’s Question: Since prejudice was systemically built into the moral fabric of America, do you think Americans who tacitly or actively profited from that model (past, present, and future), will be damned eternally?