Breaking down prejudices is not a linear event. It is a shifting in one’s beliefs through multiple experiences that carve away the entrenched, learned, and automatic negative thoughts that bind blind acceptance with tradition and ignorance.
In the Old Testament, we read about a man’s struggle with intellectual prejudice. Solomon had hoped that seeking wisdom would set him apart from other men and that he could escape the consequences of the fool by setting his heart on great learning. As a king Solomon, no doubt, settled many disputes fairly, decided the fates of men, determined the legitimate claims of families, and negotiated the peace of kingdoms. He also involved himself in the practical, everyday work of man making a living. As he pondered these experiences, he came to believe that even the fool and the wise are alike. Both should eat, drink, and be merry because “time and chance happen to them all.” Both the wise and the fool will face the ultimate leveler, death.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter represented the religious prejudices that were schooled in a good Jewish boy. He was taught to practice the laws and rituals of his faith regarding what is unclean or common. After knowing Christ as his Savior, however, it appeared that Peter began hanging out with those of lower social status, such as the tanners who work with dead carcasses. These experiences prepared him for the dream of God’s repeated command to eat what was not lawful for a Jew. The dream prepared Peter to accept the request to travel with Gentiles to the Centurion’s home, stay with him, and offer the Gentile commander salvation. Peter’s prejudices toward all men not in the Jewish genealogies crumbled when he saw these Gentiles receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What prejudices do I hold that God is scraping away? Is my love of education and admiration for those with intellectual talent keeping me from seeing the home-grown wisdom of my elders? Do I seek to enjoy the newest fads of a privileged existence rather than contentment in the simple life? What of my discomfort of hanging out with the unsaved? Do I withdraw because I am a Christian and should flee from evil? Or am I a religious prude? Wrestling with these questions, I pray, will help me to break down any prejudices that interfere with loving my neighbor as myself.