Theology Thursday: Praying Through the Veil of Bigotry

Hands clasped in prayer

For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  — Galatians 3:28

One of the greatest challenges of our day is navigating the present worldwide tensions and acknowledging that there are real issues we need to address. When wounds have surfaced and emotions are high, it can be difficult even to begin a conversation, much less get to the heart of these deep issues and have an honest, constructive and vulnerable dialogue.

Modeling Healing From Prejudice

Prejudice, in all its forms, causes harm to the followers of Jesus and can be a poison infecting the health of our families, our churches and our witness to the world. To stay in unity, we must address our personal presuppositions about people, which can lead us to harbor prejudices. When we remove the veil of prejudice, we see clearly the love of Jesus that we are meant to reflect for all people. However, we have to be people of prayer to see any results in this area.

Identity in Unity

The tone of the behavior to which we are called is set by the below verse:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. — Galatians 3:26-28

We no longer “wear” a separate identity; we wear Christ. Disunity is not a new issue, nor is it one that will likely go away soon. However, we can pray for an end to it and for all of us to be change-makers pursuing healthy relationships for our upcoming generations.

A Word From the Bible

This theme is often addressed in the Bible. The early church was birthed in a time of rampant bigotry in many forms. Christian teaching went contrary to the times and the will of the people because it pointed to an equal oneness before Christ beyond gender, belief, skin color or ethnic background. The Jews would not even enter the home of a gentile; slavery was common; women and children could be purchased and sold freely. Christian leaders writing the Scriptures discerned a new and clear standard in the expectations of God for His creation. One of the hardest truths to swallow for the Jews was that through Jesus, the chosen people of God would also include gentiles who followed Jesus.

This mystery is that through the gospel the gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. — Ephesians 3:6

In the Old Testament, Micah gives a simple recipe to protect us from prejudice in all its forms. It begins with us. He focused on a lifestyle of committed surrender God desires.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8

Here are some elements of prayer for peace in our country as well as how to dialogue with others.

Act Justly: Acceptance

We stand up for what is right. However, how we do this is important to our Christian influence. Our citizenship is in heaven, and the things of this world can distract us. We all need a biblical sense of justice that is extended to others through the same kindness that was received from Christ.

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? — Romans 2:3-4 

We do not carry the offense; we heal the wound.

Love Mercy: Forgiveness

Inequality is perpetuated by unforgiveness caused from entitlement. Forgiveness may not be offered because it is felt that the injustices are too great. True forgiveness is when one is forgiven beyond what is earned or deserved. When we are lovers of mercy, we choose to forgive. This forgiveness is not from our own strength and not because the other party has suddenly had a change of mind or even because the situation has changed. It is from the depth of Christ within us that even on the cross we can say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The steps to peace and equality come from a focus on mercy over entitled actions. We live by the pattern of Christ, not the world’s pattern (Romans 12:2). May we create a culture of forgiveness that opens honest, change-making dialogue.

Walk Humbly: Humility

Any intolerance is essentially a sin of pride. Intolerance has been around forever. Remember, Cain killed Abel over differences in the way they worshipped the same God. Everyone at some level has to deal with prejudicial propensities because we all have to deal with pride in ourselves. The only antidote to pride is a position of intentional humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. — Philippians 2:3-4

Yes, this can be tough, but we need to do it! The victory is won by Christ-like character, not by the loudest voice.

The compelling nature of Jesus is that people, for the first time, were able to catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom come. This “kingdom come” tore the veil of bigotry just as it tore the veil at the Temple upon Jesus’ death, never to be reestablished. It was and is, and should be a kingdom of equality, not for equality's’ sake, but because there is no focus on us. All focus belongs on the worship of and service to Jesus.

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