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Presented, April 17, 2005

THE SIN OF PREJUDICE (1)

Today I want to talk about a problem that is alive and thriving within our society.  In one way or another it affects us all, though some more severely than others.  It is something that virtually every one of us needs to work on in one area or another.  It is an issue that at times is ignored and at other times exploited.  And it is a SIN that will condemn souls to hell.  I am speaking of the sin of prejudice.

Prejudice is defined as “1) an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. 2) A preconceived preference or idea” (AHD). We refer to it as judging a book by its cover, jumping to conclusions, and other such things.  We find it in many areas of our lives - race, nationality, language, gender, social status, economic status, appearance, religious, etc.  The reason I say it is something every one of us needs to work on is because we all jump to conclusions from time to time without all the facts.  While we may abhor prejudice (and rightly so) in some categories, we find ourselves making these judgments in others.  Often those who are discriminated against (in whatever area that might be) react with the same and sometimes more extreme attitudes against those who have prejudged them.  For example, in Biblical times many in the Roman Empire were slaves.  There were many slaves who despised their owners, while there were many slave owners who despised and mistreated their slaves thinking of them as nothing more than a piece of property. These attitudes prompt Paul to write rules governing their conduct toward each other – Ephesians 6:5-9, etc. 
            In addition to this there was also class envy which often went both ways – the wealthy despising the poor and the poor despising the wealthy.  And there was national and ethnic prejudice such as the ways Jews viewed the Samaritans.  In all these areas, as the Bible addresses them it is always in condemnation of prejudice. 

So with this in mind, this morning I want to examine what the Bible has to say about the sin of prejudice.

The Sin of Prejudice

a.        It is a form of partiality – James 2:1-10.

                                                   i.      We could spend the entire lesson addressing this text and such might be a good to do in the future.  Today though we just mention it and note a couple of thoughts:

                                                  ii.      It begins with a challenge – do not hold the faith of our Lord with partiality.  His point here is that it is something to be shared with others.  He even goes on to show that to withhold it from anyone is A SIN!

                                                iii.      Partiality illustrated (2-4) in the form of social status and wealth.  It is worthy to note that this may be an area WE need to work on.  Are there visitors who are not dressed right or don’t seem to be in “our class” that we avoid before and after services?  Do we look down on those who are not in the same social circles we are in? 
What about those with troubled pasts who are struggling to climb out of the pits of society?  Do we really care about them as we do those in “fine apparel?”

                                                iv.      Aren’t we glad God is not that way? (5)

                                                 v.      It is even noted that such behavior is no better than the UNGODLY in the world (6-7)

                                                vi.      The “Royal law” is mentioned in vs. 8 – Love your neighbor as yourself?  Who is your neighbor?  Consider a parable in Luke 10:25-37 – the good Samaritan.

                                              vii.      Now NOTE vs. 9 – “if you show partiality, YOU COMMIT SIN!!!”  Note: Partiality is ALWAYS a result when there is prejudice.  Vs. 10-13 – like any other sin, it is one that CONDEMNS according to the Law and will lead one to hell if he does not repent.

b.       It is condemned in God’s word – In addition to James 2
1 Timothy 5:21- Paul calls upon Timothy to “observe these things without prejudice, doing NOTHING with partiality
Under the Old Law they were told, “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”  Deuteronomy 16:19

c.        It is against God’s character.

                                                   i.      A characteristic called for regularly is godliness – the idea of that is being devout or reverent toward Him.  In essence we are to strive to be like Him in all that we do.
Ephesians 5:1 says, “therefore be imitators of God as dear children”

                                                  ii.      Concerning prejudice we find Him appearing to Peter in a vision in Acts 10:9-15 where he is told, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 
Later as Peter hears the story from Cornelius he concludes according to Acts 10:34-35 that God shows no partiality.

                                                iii.      Romans 2:11 says, “there is no partiality with God”

d.       It is against the character of Jesus

                                                   i.      1 Corinthians 11:1 – we are to imitate Christ.
Philippians 2:5 tells us to have the mind Christ had (especially in humility)

                                                  ii.      Consider His example
 John 4 – He spoke to the Samaritan woman, one who was despised for a number of reasons.  We find His conversation of surprise to His disciples (vs. 27)

                                                iii.      Luke 20:21 – while the motives of the Pharisees were less than noble (you could say they were prejudice as they approached Him), their observation was correct – “You do not show personal favoritism.”  Matthew 22:16 which says, “you do not care about anyone” – this does not mean He didn’t care – it speaks of favoritism as the text bears out.

e.        It is FALSELY judging – are you partaking in a lie

                                                   i.      As the definition states – we are prejudging, which is USALLY wrong.  And even if your judgments are right, the fact that they are formulated without all the facts would make them wrong – your motives are not as they ought to be.

                                                  ii.      God’s word has much to say about judging – Note again James 2:4
John 7:24 – do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
Matthew 7:1-5 warns us that the way we judge others is how we will be judged?  Do we want to stand before God knowing that we discriminated against others without any justification?

                                                iii.      Proverbs 24:23 says, “These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment.”

f.         It fosters bitter and sinful attitudes both in the one discriminated against and the one who is discriminating.  It also produces division – the types of divisions that are condemned AND PREVENTABLE!

                                                   i.      Often a product of prejudice is hatred, hatful conduct and speech, bitterness, cursings, slander, and numerous other things.  All such are clearly condemned in God’s word.

                                                  ii.      It can also carry long range consequences.  Sometimes the product of prejudice carries on for several generations.  The offense of the Samaritans was more than 400 years old when Jesus taught on this earth and the animosity was stronger than ever.  When we show prejudice there is a good chance it will rub off on our children and their children.  It will also cause bitter rifts in society.  And among brethren it can divide churches and drive away prospective members, as has been done.

g.       I am fully convinced that prejudice is a tool of the devil that he has sharpened and he uses it very effectively today as he always has done.

 

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Presented, April 24, 2005 am

THE SIN OF PREJUDICE (2)

Last week we presented a lesson in which it was established that prejudice is a sin.  We noted in some detail

·         We defined  prejudice as, 1) an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. 2) A preconceived preference or idea” (AHD).   NOTE: while this

·         It is found in many areas of our lives including race, nationality, language, gender, social status, economic status, appearance, religious, etc.  Sometimes it comes as a result of former conduct – something happened and everything we associate with the person who “did me wrong” is now viewed in light of that act.
AND it is something we all need to work on in one area or another, because while we may have overcome prejudice in one way (and maybe that area we need it the most), there are always areas that need work.   In addition to this, often prejudice goes both ways.

·         The sin of partiality as discussed by James 2:1-13 where he said in vs. 9, “but if you show partiality, you do commit sin.

·         Paul even used the word in writing to Timothy and told him to “observe these things without prejudice, doing NOTHING with partiality” – 1 Timothy 5:21

·         We also noted that such is contrary to God’s character because He shows no partiality.

·         It is against the character of Jesus because he crossed these barriers while on earth and taught His disciples to accept all men. 

·         We also mentioned the sin of falsely judging.  James 2:4 speaks of partiality as being judges with evil thoughts.  Proverbs 24:23 says, “These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment

·         And then there are the bitter attitudes often associated with this sin on both side including hatred, hatful conduct and speech, bitterness, cursings, slander, and numerous other things.  All such are clearly condemned in God’s word.

Having said all this, in my lesson today, I want to notice some things we can do to overcome prejudice in our lives.

 

Overcoming Prejudice

a.        Realize the value of every soul – every soul will spend eternity somewhere, either heaven or hell.  The parables of Luke 15 are designed to demonstrate this point.  Note the parable of the lost sheep which is concluded with the statement, “I say to you likewise, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (15:7). 
Prejudice often drives away valuable souls and opportunities – we can’t afford to do that and still be pleasing to God.
Paul became ALL THINGS to all men – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – that he might win some.
DON’T forget the value of YOUR own soul as well – if you are prejudice, you need to repent!
Note James 2:9-13 – it only takes one sin to stand condemned.

 

b.       Know that God does not view things as we do – “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7.
There are many who justify attitudes of prejudice, some even quoting (actually misquoting) scripture.  But just because you can find a scripture that seemingly justifies your views, doesn’t make it right.  Can you HONESTLY say that your thinking is in accord with God’s will? 2 Timothy 2:15 – we are to “rightly divide the word of truth”

 

c.        Consider your place before God – If God were prejudice where would we be?  What if Jesus were prejudice? Would you and I have any hope?
Most of us are Gentiles – What if God had decided to ONLY accept the Jews and reject everyone else?  But He didn’t! 
With God, we are all one in Christ - Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 3:6 where Paul reveals God’s “mystery” which includes all of mankind, including the Gentiles.
Even beyond this, we are ALL sinners and unworthy to stand before Him – Romans 3:23, Galatians 3:22 – the scripture has confined all under sin…
 1 Corinthians 7:19 summarizes this – “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.”
 

d.       Learn to think properly
Philippians 4:8 speaks of the types of things we ought to think about. 
Sometimes we need to think differently – Acts 10:9-16 – Peter had to change his thinking toward Gentiles when God spoke to him.
HONESTLY ask, does God want me to feel this way toward this person?
We have to let go of bitterness, and other sinful attitudes, etc.  Ephesians 4:29-32

 

e.        Don’t forget the “golden rule”
Has anyone ever prejudged you?  How did you feel about that?
Matthew 7:12 – we need to treat others the way we want to be treated. 
One of the problems with prejudice is the tendency to retaliate.  If they are prejudice against us we have a tendency to despise them back and treat them the same way.  In God’s eyes this is unacceptable.  The saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right” is true and applies even here.

 

f.         Don’t read too much into a situation
Matthew 17:6 says, “You will know them by their fruits.”  Jesus was speaking of false teachers and said their actions in time would reveal their motives.  There are times when prejudice is clearly evident.   And when that is the case it OUGHT to be exposed.  BTW, do we really expose prejudice as we ought to?  IF someone is acting with prejudice do we confront them and mark them?
 I am convinced that one major cause of prejudice in any form is the tendency to stereotype others because of appearance.  We ASSUME the worst in one who demonstrates some trait we are discriminating against.  Anytime we hear or see something that is typical of “them”, we look for reasons to justify our motives and read the WORST into the situation.  Sometimes we even hunt for the “splinters”
Love THINKS NO EVIL – 1 Corinthians 13:5
Note the warning of Paul – Galatians 5:15; James 3:14-15 - biting and devouring one another, etc.

 

g.       Pray to God for wisdom in this
IF we really want to be what God would have us to be, ask Him for strength and wisdom – James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him as of God…”
Job 32:21-22, “Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone; Nor let me flatter any man.  For I do not know how to flatter, Else my Maker would soon take me away.”
I have heard it said that you cannot hate someone (which is what prejudice involves) if you are praying for them.

 

h.       Learn to love each other
John 13:34 – Jesus gave “a new commandment” to His disciples, “as I have loved you, that you also love another.
How many wrongs could be righted if only we would learn to care for each other as we ought to?   Also 1 John 4:7-8 – love is of God.

 

i.         Work at it
IF you have a problem with prejudice, you will need to put forth effort to change it. 
From time to time you will stumble.  Satan will see to that.
Galatians 2:11-14 – Peter stumbled toward the Gentiles.  
But when you stumble – get up and go again.  Galatians 6:9 – Don’t grow weary in doing good…

 

Thus we can see, prejudice is something we need to remove from our lives.  While there is a time to be “discriminating”, it has nothing to do with the appearance or circumstances of another – it addresses behaviors – and that is another lesson.  Let us strive to do what we can to remove prejudice from our lives, our brethren and our communities.  Think about it.