In this edition, we want to talk about prejudice. Hearing that word may make you squirm in your seat a little, even feel a little defensive. Or you might think the topic doesn’t apply to you, so you are tempted to click delete. I want to ask you to please consider reading on and see what the Lord might reveal to you. But before you read any further, take a few moments to pray and seek the Lord’s heart on this topic. Ask him to grant you a spirit of humility and eagerness to grow in awareness. A great prayer of the psalms is “Search me and know me. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). This is a fitting prayer for us as we wade into deep and sometimes unpredictable waters.
I’ve read a lot of books lately—mostly stories about other people’s lives. I always find stories captivating, disarming, and inspiring. I’ve read about those in prison, the poor, people of color, refugees, and people from other cultures and religions. I’ve been stretched, exposed, confused. At times, I even felt legitimate shame and sorrow over my grave misjudgment and presuppositions. Each book was peeling back the curtain and revealing prejudices within the crevices of my own heart. I would never have considered myself a prejudiced person, but that is because I had a limited understanding of it. God has graciously granted me a growing awareness, and while that revelation has been uncomfortable, it has also been refreshing because God has begun freeing me from attitudes, opinions, and beliefs that do not reflect his heart for men and women created in his image. I’ve sensed a rise in compassion for those whose experiences and circumstances are much different than mine. But for that to happen, God had to make me aware of both my ignorance and my arrogance.
Whatever your understanding of the word prejudice, whatever your experience with it, I want to ask you to lay it aside and let’s explore it fresh together. The dictionary says prejudice is any preconceived opinion or feeling, whether favorable or unfavorable; it’s an opinion or feeling formed beforehand without knowledge, thought or reason. Essentially, prejudice is to pre-judge someone or something. We all have opinions. The question is, do we have an informed opinion that is rooted in love of God and neighbor and guided by the Scriptures, or do we have a prejudiced view formed by bias, ignorance, pride, privilege, and our own feelings of superiority?
This is a critical discipleship issue we must confront head-on so that we may be freed to reflect and live out the ezer nature of God! Our goal in addressing this topic is that we may grow as a community of women who reflect the love of Christ in both word and deed—coming alongside the marginalized, the ostracized, the vulnerable, persons of color, and those with disabilities. We are praying God, through his Spirit, will help us move from a place of ignorance, grow in awareness and genuine concern for the conditions our neighbors face, intentionally invest in those who are different from us, and bear one another’s burdens.
Before we get started, take a look at the following graphic from the North American Mission Board. This graphic provides helpful language and categories we can use to evaluate ourselves as we move toward the kind of fellowship that more fully depicts the kingdom of God.
by: Scott Sauls
This book challenges our view of friendship. Sauls encourages us to befriend refugees; the poor; those with disabilities; those who have had or are considering abortions; prodigals and the pharisees; sexual minorities; and even those in a different political party.
“Real friendship happens when we move toward the people we are most tempted to avoid. These are the people who are best equipped to challenge our perspectives, push our buttons, and require us to put on love.”
“This kind of friendship—the multilayered kind that exposes us to the grit of our own and each other’s lives; the kind that positions us to love across the lines of our differences; the kind that leads us to lay down our lives for each other’s sake—works a lot like two pieces of sandpaper being rubbed together. The friction causes sensations that initially irritate and burn. Yet, over time, the effect on both pieces of sandpaper is the same. Both become smoother, not in spite of friction but precisely because of it.”
Podcast: The Danger of a Single Story
by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This TED Talk exposes the danger of believing a single story about others—whether they are poor, from a different race or culture, or with different circumstances.
"All I had heard about them was how poor they were so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.”
“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story...The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity.
“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- Create a list of situations, people, or circumstances where you may have a tendency to pre-judge a person. (ex. A beautiful, fit woman at the gym; a mom who seems to have it all together; an interracial couple; someone who is obese, someone wearing a hijab, someone on welfare, someone driving a beat-up car).
- As you look over your list, what do you notice about the types of prejudice that you have?
- What do you think influenced your thinking toward these situations, people or circumstances?
- In what ways have you been pre-judged by someone? In what ways did that impact you?
- Examine your circle of friends. Is there any diversity? If not, why not?
Discuss your answers with others—a spouse, a friend, or your community group.
These are important questions to ask ourselves if we want to move from awareness into intentional relationships that reflect the diversity of the kingdom.
Below are two additional resources we recommend for furthering the conversation. Dedicate some time to go through these resources with your community group, neighbors, Ezer small groups, or friends.
by: David Delk and Dr. Tony Parks
by: North American Mission Board
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned?
Stories can be a catalyst for change. One of the ways we can address our ignorance and increase our awareness is to educate ourselves and to be moved by the stories of other people.
Below are a few books we recommend. We do not endorse everything these authors have to say, however, we do feel they provide a helpful perspective of people dealing with a variety of circumstances. We encourage you to choose one from the category you have identified prejudice in your own heart.
Those in Prison or Formerly in Prison
by: Bryan Stevenson
by: Anthony Ray Hinton
by: Malala Yousafzai
by: Nadia Murad
(Please note: This book does give the account of a woman’s story as an ISIS sex-slave and may be difficult for anyone who has experienced sexual assault to read).
by: J.D. Vance
Homosexuality and Same-Sex Attraction
by: Jackie Hill Perry
by: Rosaria Butterfield
by: Peter Hubbbard
It is one thing to read a person’s story in a book. It is a different thing to sit across the table from someone and hear their story.
Here are a few important steps we can take toward repentance:
- Have lunch or coffee with a neighbor or co-worker who is different from you.
- Be intentional to reach outside of your normal circle and begin establishing relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances. It is hard to hate people close-up. Move in.
- Reach out to a friend from a different socioeconomic or ethnic background and ask them to coffee or lunch. Start by asking a few simple questions.
- How have you experienced prejudice?
- What has that been like for you?
- What is something I need to know about this issue that I may not be aware of?
- This is a great step and one that can have the most significant impact if done with genuine love, concern, compassion, and humility. But it is helpful to have this kind of conversation in a relationship where credibility, trust, and love have already been established. If you do not have any friends from diverse backgrounds in your life currently, we encourage you to reach out and ask someone to coffee or lunch and begin building a relationship. Over time, as intimacy and trust are established, you will have built a solid foundation upon which you can ask these kinds of questions.
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.