Guarding Against Prejudice
One of the greatest challenges the church faces is prejudice. We think that because we are Christians, saved by the blood of Christ that we no longer suffer from prejudging people. The truth is, whether we grew up in the church or not, our society teaches us to be prejudice. However, this is not what God desires! Henri Nouwen has an interesting reflection on guarding ourselves against prejudice.
“One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.
“Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”
God wants us to be free of prejudice because it keeps us from seeing people as God sees them. Let us make a concerted effort to avoid prejudging others and ask the Holy Spirit to constantly remind us of Christ’s love for all of humanity, despite their differences.
Here is another reflection from Henri Nouwen: “We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.
“The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let’s remember Jesus’ words: ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged’ (Matthew 7:1).”