Are you prejudiced?

John-Piper_Bloodlines

Are you racist?

Don’t automatically answer, “No!”

Maybe you’re not prejudiced towards blacks or whites.

But maybe you are toward Baptists or gays or “white trash.” Or men over 60 or loud women or intolerant Republicans.

Our bus arrives late in the early morning hours in Antigua, Guatemala. We wanted to get to the Guatemala City airport with extra time to ensure no one would miss our connecting flights in Houston. But now we are hurrying.

I’m keeping up with the front of the crowd. The language barrier has only been minimal.

All is well. Until I begin filling out my travel form and a short older man walks up beside me. He mumbles something about “help” in an accent I barely understand. Is he offering it or needing it?

He’s needing it. Sigh.

He says he can’t read the form. Will I help? I glance at my watch. Double sigh. I say okay, thinking he’ll have only one or two questions.

But no. He hands me the entire form, a pen, and his passport. It’s in a language I can’t read. He’s not from around here, and by here, I mean not any of the Americas.

One question at a time, I ask him for answers. He often doesn’t understand the words (or maybe it’s my southern accent?). Place of residence? He’s vague. Are you carrying tools/equipment? He doesn’t understand. Do you have any samples with you? He really doesn’t understand.

Where are you going? Home. It’s a region our country doesn’t even officially recognize. An enemy nation of our friends.

And here I am helping him get there, with all my suspicions and irritations now high. Is this even legal for me to fill out his form? And now my fingerprints will be on it?

Do I still have prejudices? Um, yes.

In John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, he tells of four ways his church seeks to eradicate racism through ethnic diversity. These can be useful to all of us.

  1. Pray
    If you want to be less prejudiced, pray for opportunities to meet real people that you might be prejudiced against.
  2. Prepare
    Read books. Listen to speakers. Explore outside your comfort zone.
  3. Probe
    Look for people different than you. Delve into friends’ circles that are wider than yours.
  4. Prefer
    Intentionally invite others into your life that are foreign to you. Proactively nurture relationships you never had considered. Initiate conversations that might be uncomfortable but can prove expansive.

Otherwise, if we remain blind to our prejudices, we’ll continue contributing to them.

“The sin of pride will subtly contaminate all our relationships, even where it is not recognized. A disease does not have to be diagnosed in order to infect and kill.

Bloodlines is a helpful book to open our eyes to undiagnosed racism. The chapter on interracial marriage (which can be applied to many areas!) is possibly the best one.

“Will it be harder to be married to another race, and will it be harder for the kids? Maybe. Maybe not. But since when is that the way a Christian thinks? Life is hard. And the more you love, the more painful it gets. . . .

Christians are people who move toward need and truth and justice, not toward comfort and security. Life is hard. But God is good. And Christ is strong to help.”

Back at the airport, I finally finish the man’s form. I hand it and his passport back to him. He thanks me genuinely. “You’re welcome” then I dash off for immediate boarding (I didn’t miss the flight, thank God).

But I keep thinking about him.

Perhaps he isn’t a terrorist at all, but only a granddad anxious to see his wife and his family. To get home. Maybe I’ll erase the stereotype I’d drawn on him.

Because he is a real person. With a face. A name. A life.
Not an issue, not a political problem, not my enemy.

We’re more alike than different, me and this man. Two travelers on a journey whose paths crossed at a moment of need. Lord, have mercy on us both.

* * *

See the other. Be kind to the other. Love the other. It’s what God does. And what he wants us to do.

Who is an other in your life that you need to meet? To love? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Free PDF download of Bloodlines from Desiring God

My thanks to Crossway for the review copy of Bloodlines

24 thoughts on “Are you prejudiced?

  1. Dianna

    Lisa, I am so thankful for my mom when it comes to this topic. She loved people for the person they were and not who others said they were. She worked at a job that was constantly putting her in contact with people from many different countries and she even helped some of them setting up households by taking them to shop at stores that she knew they could afford (which was NOT in her job description…she just did it because she genuinely cared about people…the person they were). Her example down through the years carried over to me. Jesus had a man in an airport…a woman committed to Him…and brought them together that you might be able to share here…that others might be blessed (and/or convicted) of such a need in their lives. YOU, my sweet friend, are such a humble servant to our precious Saviour. You didn’t turn your back, and even with your sighs, you were used of Him. Love you!
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love the story of your mom, Dianna. We learn so much about how to treat other people by how our parents did it, for good or bad. Piper tells of watching his mother usher in a black family into the sanctuary at his sister’s wedding when they had already been told they couldn’t sit in the sanctuary with everybody else. It made an impression on him that he never forgot. I’m thankful for women and men like your mom…and now you…who want to love all people. Love you, Dianna.
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  2. David

    > Perhaps he isn’t a terrorist at all, …

    Wow. I can understand people feeling uncomfortable around gays or thinking non-whites are smelly but do Americans really think Mr Random might be a “terrorist” just because he’s a — (from your description I can only think of North Korea)!? Lost for words.
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I won’t speak for all Americans (I’d be stereotyping again, ha), but since 9/11, there is a much higher suspicion level of men from the Middle East on airplanes. Of course 99.999% is unfounded.

      We’re making progress in many areas (gays), not much in other areas (transgenders). But being a nation made up of people from all nations, we have much opportunity to practice showing respect and dignity to all peoples if we’ll let ourselves. There’s definitely a heightened awareness to our need to do so, thank God, and that’s where it starts.
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  3. David

    Sorry I didn’t answer your question 😀

    I am becoming more and more interested in the way “prejudiced” people are being marginalised and “de-normalised”. For example the people on the “wrong” side of the recent gay marriage debate (or rather non-debate). Another example might be the much-maligned white working class (“white trash” is the American term?) — racist, fat, drinking, smoking, …

    Politically I don’t have much sympathy with these people (“these people” – the language of disdain) but there is something not quite right with the way they are being treated — “rounded up” almost — by the cultural establishment.

    Don’t really know what to do or even think about it yet. But they are my “other” atm.

    David

    (with apologies for earlier outburst)
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You make an interesting point that is now raised here often. I’m not where I should be yet–I drift toward the side of being intolerant of the intolerants whereas I want to be more patient and loving toward the intolerant (since I am one). Grace for all.

      God is with each of us on a very individualized journey. Until we’ve lived in someone else’s childhood/circumstances/personality/skin (which is impossible), we shouldn’t be surprised when they think/act differently than we do (as if our understanding of life is the perfect right one). God is moving in each of our lives in the way we need; we can be receptive only for ourselves. While we can guide and advise others as needed (and they us), it’s God’s responsibility to do the changing in them, not ours. Our responsibility (and honor) is to love. It was Jesus’s first and second greatest commands: love God, love others.

      I know it’s much more complicated than that simple paragraph, but that’s where I start anyway. I’ve got a long way to go myself, but the more “others” that I know, the more God opens my eyes to our true purpose here: to love. I am one of the “others” too.

      (Yours was a very civil outburst; no apologies needed.)
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  4. Joanne Viola

    I am very grateful for my mom whom I truly think loved people, all people. And she taught us as kids to do the same. Now as we grow older, we can surely develop prejudices of our own doing & I think it can be insidious. I can best see it in myself by what upsets me when in the mall or driving :) Seriously. May we pray always for God to deposit into our hearts His love for people. All people. Insightful post!
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You make a good point, Joanne–it’s not always the “big” prejudices that get us. It can be those small ones that can be daily, like bad drivers. ha.

      It’s funny which kind of people push our buttons; we might be very patient with one group and incredibly short with another. Knowing someone’s story usually is what changes me to be more patient; if I know a driver is speeding because he’s taking his pregnant wife to the hospital, I won’t get mad. :)

      Thanks for sharing about your mom. It’s always encouraging to hear those stories of how a mother’s influence lives on…. I hope my kids will remember my good things and forget my bad…
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  5. Joe Pote

    Yes, we all have prejudices. Some we picked up early in life…others were learned along the way.

    Reading this post, I couldn’t help noticing the irony that I’m more than a little prejudiced against John Piper’s teaching.

    Yes, I realize he has written some really good books. And it sounds like ‘Bloodlines’ may be one of the good ones.

    However, his writing is so horribly wrong on the topic of marriage, divorce and abuse…not just wrong but dangerously legalistic…dangerous in keeping abuse victims enslaved in abusive marriages…

    I must admit, I cringed when I saw Piper’s name on your blog…and was tempted to be extra critical of anything he wrote.

    It is hard, sometimes, drawing a line between wisdom and prejudice.

    As you said, “Lord have mercy on us!”

    Thank you, Lisa!
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your comment makes me smile, Joe. Although I have gained much from John Piper’s teachings on Christian hedonism, there’s also much I strongly disagree with him about on his theology, so I understand your initial reluctance.

      But thankfully it didn’t keep me from reading Bloodlines. :) I had a feeling he’d have some good words to say here, knowing he came from the south during horrible times of segregation and knowing that he later in life adopted an African-American baby as his own.

      I admit there are some books I won’t touch just because of the author’s name; I’ve still got room to grow, so no judgment here. :)
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  6. TC Avey

    Thanks for sharing.
    We’re all guilty of some form of prejudice and think much of it stems from not only ignorance but fear.
    Satan plays on our fears, he increases them, distorts them, and creates t hem.
    Keeping our focus on God can help us recognize the lies of satan and be open to others we wouldn’t normally be.
    I remind myself of these things when I too find myself in situations where I find myself judging another based on little knowledge of them and/or rooted in fear.
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, great point, TC. Fear is one of the strongest motivators of prejudice, in my opinion. A lot of prejudice that I see amongst even God-fearing Christians is rooted in fear. Yes, may we focus on God to overcome that, even as we do battle with ignorance alongside it. Thanks for sharing this.
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  7. Sharon

    Lisa, this was a powerful post on a subject that we don’t often talk about. But, I think we need to talk about it more! Yes, I hate to admit it, but I do believe that I have prejudices. And this is not what we are called to as representatives of God’s Kingdom. Jesus was a very inclusive person, and He wasn’t afraid to step over all sorts of societal “boundaries” to get to the people who needed Him. As always, He is our example.

    I have recently been very touched by my oldest’s sons stories about a homeless man that he has befriended. He sees this man every time he goes to a home professional hockey game (he has season tickets). I am touched by my son’s willingness to give some money, sure – but I am even more moved by his willingness to stop and talk, to be willing to take the time while the crowd passes by.

    This is what I want to do. To take the time.

    God bless you, Lisa, for doing exactly that. And for writing such a convicting and challenging post. It’s a message that we need to hear and act upon. For this world is full of people who need Jesus. And He is the only One who can break down barriers.

    GOD BLESS.
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you totally, Sharon: we definitely need to talk more about it. Especially if we are not in one of the so-called minority groups. I’ve had some great conversations this year with black friends and strangers about how they still see racism today. It’s been eye-opening, even if at times uncomfortable. It’s okay to step out of our comfort zones to be more like Jesus.

      That’s awesome that your son not only shares money but his time and attention with the homeless man. One thing that everyone wants is love!
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  8. Dana Butler

    Mmmm…. yes. He’s a person, and we are more alike than we are different. This is so along the lines of what Jesus has been whispering in my heart lately – what He’s been inviting me into. I so long for Him to utterly erase my tendency to assume, to conclude, to judge. To fear those who’re “different,” at first glance. Oh Jesus, grace, grace for my lack of love…
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  9. Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith

    Yes, we all have prejudices. And, yes, there’s so much work to be done. But we keep fighting by recognizing our prejudices and trying again until we get it right. It helps if we can have experiences when we are the different or we are the alien or the one who needs help. But it is not easy. But – thank God! – grace is more powerful than our fears. Great post, Lisa! Thanks for challenging us. Blessings!
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Being the one ourselves who is different is definitely a great eye-opener. It’s in moments like those that I’ve discovered how I want hospitality to feel, and then I’m more apt to give it to somebody else when they feel like the different one. Thanks for bringing out this point, Mari-Anna. Excellent insight.
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  10. Natalie

    So much good here, Lisa. Lots of others come to mind and the concrete steps to take really do help. Probably need to put this book on my very long to-read list, but you’ve given me a nice start. Thanks for that!
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hear you, Natalie; I know all about very long to-read lists myself. I’ll never finish mine. This book had actually been buried in that last for awhile. But this was just the right season for it so God leap-frogged it to the top of the list. Thankful that he is good like that!
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  11. Amber @ Beautiful Rubbish

    So gooooooood, Lisa. Thank you so much for sharing this. The words about interracial marriage struck a tender note with me. When my husband and I first met, we were more different than we are now, but then – his being Mexican and Catholic, me being white and non-Catholic – I wondered if I was walking into something that would be extra difficult. The thing is, Piper is right: the point is never that we’re to seek what’s easier, right? I had to come to the place where I valued the opportunities (and challenges) of putting into practice truly loving an “Other” who is different more than the value and comfort of sameness. And you’re right, how much this applies outside of marriage, too. I am truly being changed for it, thanks to God.
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    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I so appreciate you sharing this part of your story here, Amber. Sometimes we underestimate those seemingly lesser differences from an outside view, but differences in culture and religion can be just as challenging to navigate as differences in race. I’ve been amazed through the years how sometimes even the smallest things can end up being so big.

      But your lesson of valuing the opportunities (and challenges) is worth it, yes? I’m thankful God keeps pointing out my blind spots to me, even though they’re sometimes painful to work through. It is one way he changes us for the better… Thanks, Amber.
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