This article is about “them people over there”—you know…. the people that I don’t like
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Prejudice is a common human trait.
I am not justifying it; I am merely pointing out a fact.
The word prejudice in its simple form means to pre-judge someone or something before all the facts are known or experienced.
We most often use this word when referring to someone’s dislike of a particular group.
Prejudice is defined as
“aversive or hostile attitude toward a person who belongs to a group,
simply because he belongs to that group,
and is therefore presumed to have the
objectionable qualities ascribed to that group.”
We are each all too familiar with how that plays out in our society.
After 9/11, all middle-easterners were despised, especially those who wore turbans.
They were called ragheads, which is not an endearing term.
Currently, in our small town there is a prejudice developing against homes for troubled youth.
Because there have been allegations of abuse in various forms and intensity, it is being assumed that this is true of any home trying to help troubled youth.
It has gotten so bad that an allegation is now believed to be true, even though our justice system claims that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Prejudice, however, allows for an allegation to be taken as fact and tried in the court of public opinion long before the lawyers have accumulated evidence one way or another.
Prejudice helps us to feel good about our opinion, especially when we can find others who hold the same opinion.
Prejudice—especially racial prejudice—is a learned behavior which is passed down from one generation to the next.
We all know how that is the case here in our country, but it is also true in many other countries—especially those whose people maintain their ethnicity.
This kind of prejudice is a sub-text from the gospel reading today. (Luke 17:11-19)
Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?
The foreigner to whom Jesus referred was a Samaritan—a person from Samaria.
We do not know where the other lepers were from, but it is specifically pointed out that this particular one was from Samaria.
and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.
Now he was a Samaritan.
The Samaritans were despised by the Jews, who called these people half-breeds.
We know from our stories and movies about the settling of the West that a half-breed was not a welcome person in society.
Samaria was in the land originally allotted to the tribe of Joseph in the settling of the Promised Land.
However, when the Jews were taken in the Babylonian captivity, things changed for parts of Israel.
Not all the Jews were carried off.
The elderly and sickly were left.
With the country almost vacant, the few able-bodied people who were left moved into the plantations on the rolling pasturelands of Samaria.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon wanted to destroy the Jewish race and brought in other peoples to the land so as to cause an amalgamation of races.
The ones remaining intermarried with those who were brought in, so that the Samaritans were no longer a pure Jewish race.
Seventy years later, when the Jews returned, the Samaritans came to help rebuild Jerusalem.
The Jews called them “half-breeds” and sent them home.
The Samaritans built their own temple which the Jews considered pagan.
The feud grew, and by the time of Christ, the Jews hated the Samaritans so much they crossed the Jordan river rather than travel through Samaria.
But Jesus challenged this prejudice more than once during His ministry.
Recall the story of the woman at the well, which occurred in Samaria.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”
(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
“For the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” is the author’s explanation as to why the woman said what she did.
Jesus was violating the customs of His day by asking her—a Samaritan woman—for a drink from the well.
Prejudice runs deep for many people, and it can be used to ostracize anyone who violates the code.
(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews,
for the Jews had already agreed that
if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ,
he was to be put out of the synagogue.)
These were the parents of the man born blind whom Jesus healed on a sabbath day.
The Jews had called them in to ascertain if the man was indeed their son and that he had been born blind.
They affirmed that the man was born without sight, but they would not acknowledge anything about his healing because of the threat from the Jews that would put them out of the synagogue.
I have personally been accused by more than one leader about my associations with those whom the leadership were afraid of.
I was told once that if I ran with dogs, I would be called a dog, which was in reference to my friendship with a man who had been accused of being a false prophet.
Prejudice is a powerful thing and is often used as a weapon.
The Jews were so upset with this event that they even got angry with the man who was healed when they asked him about it.
They answered him,
“You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?”
And they cast him out.
At another time, the Jews actually accused Jesus of being a Samaritan, so great was their hatred for these people.
The Jews answered him,
“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
The only thing that Jesus said in response was that He did not have a demon.
He did not deny the accusation of being a Samaritan, even though He certainly was not.
Why did Jesus let that accusation stand?
One thing we know for sure is that Jesus was not concerned about His reputation.
He was known to visit with those who were considered as the dregs of society.
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say,
‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
As Christians, we like to hold Jesus up as a model for our lives.
We talk about how He healed people, and how He showed compassion for people, and how He attacked the religious people of His day.
But His example of being a friend to outcasts is something we just don’t like.
Is there any possibility that love may still exist in today’s world
We sometimes find it difficult to give some money to a street beggar, and we may occasionally give in and pull something out of our pocket.
But, to sit down with one of them on the street and offer a listening ear is almost unimaginable.
The fear which comes from prejudice is our fence that keeps us separate from those people with whom association may seem objectionable.
The Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans, and apparently they could feel the bigotry as for what the woman said to Jesus.
People can sense when there is a negative attitude toward them.
I will close with this story about President Thomas Jefferson.
“During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks. Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life. A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river and then asked President Jefferson to take him across. The president agreed without hesitation, the man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him: “Why did you select the President to ask this favor?” The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across. “All I know,” he said, “is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No’ and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes.’ His was a ‘Yes’ face.”
Jesus gave us the example of having a yes face toward those who may be looking to see if there is any possibility that love may still exist in today’s world.
Will you begin to ask the Lord to help you develop a yes face so that when they look into your eyes all they see is the love of God for a lost and dying world?
I am not saying it is easy.
The Lord knows that I have turned more people away with my NO face than I have welcomed with my yes face.
I pray that we all continue to grow in the grace, love and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we learned last time, His mercies are new every morning.
May your mercy be renewed on a daily basis. Amen.