The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1-3)
When we prejudge a person or people group that we really don’t know on a personal level purely based on “reputation” this is stereotyping. Is stereotyping an acceptable behavior for Christians? No. It is in no way an aspect of the faith, and in no way can stereotyping serve any function in a positive capacity. The Word speaks out against stereotyping in numerous occasions. Why does Jonah refuse to go to Nineveh even after God tells him to go? Jonah bases his decision on the “reputation” of the Assyrian empire. The Assyrians were known to be savages. Does this mean every Assyrian was a savage? No, and it’s clear of the events of the book of Jonah that Jonah’s assessment (stereotyping) was completely misguided and not faith led. How do we know this, because in the end Nineveh repents and the greatest revival in all of scripture takes place.
Stereotyping is a stop along the road to prejudice and racism. Why do we feel the need to prejudge someone who makes us upset or irritated in a single moment or over an extended period of time? Ego, and our belief that we are somehow better or more important in someway over the person or people group we are prejudging. What is the Bible’s first account of sin? It wasn’t Adam and Eve’s transgression.
Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. (Ezekiel 28:17)
The prophet, on the surface, speaks about the king of Tyre in this passage but if you look deeper you’ll uncover Ezekiel is truly speaking about Satan. The Devil believes himself to be beautiful, wise, and full of splendor therefore he believes he is better than everyone. This behavior is what led him to be cast out of Heaven. It’s this same poison that courses through our veins when we act out in irrational prejudgement out of a fit of anger and irritation or by prejudging someone based on a “cultural reputation”. “This person is a terrible driver because they’re Asian”… “I don’t go anywhere near black people because all they do is create crime”… “I avoid white people because they’re all privileged and entitled bigots.” Forgive me for even writing these words down, but I’m trying to convey the graphic nature of this mentality. Can you see how ridiculous and obtuse these sound? When we give in to this type of temptation and give ourselves over to this train of thinking, in a moment, we believe that we ourselves or our culture is somehow better than the person or culture we are aiming our prejudgment towards. Dare I even say, some of us may even feel more favored by God? This is the very antithesis of what Christ was communicating during His earthly ministry and today. Why did He go to the woman at the well in Samaria? He knew Judea had been suffering from extreme prejudice and discriminatory behavior as a result of stereotyping the Samaritans and Israel for hundreds of years. Prejudgment is not Christ in me and you thinking and saying these things…it’s the world, and who has dominion over the world in this current age?
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours. (Luke 4:5-7)
The Devil was not actually “given” authority, but it doesn’t stop him from exercising the “illusion” that it has been. As Christians, when we stereotype, this is a perfect portrayal of our old lives and what it meant to be a slave to sin, but because Christ came, died, and resurrected we now have the choice to opt out. Yes, I’m sure there are analytics and data that has been gathered to show a correlation between these assessments and their bases in actual reality, but can we judge an individual or group based on demographics…NO! Christ even tells us just having this type of thought in our minds is already committing the sin. So, we need to do our very best to stop thinking this way and eventually this mentality will fall away because of our faith in Him. We’re to walk on the same path as our Lord which is walking towards these people groups and not walking away.
An easy way to commit the sin of stereotyping is basing your prejudgment on someone, a group, or a culture purely based on the way they look or rather the choice of clothing they wear. This one is extremely easy. I witness brothers and sisters in Christ do this quite frequently. They prejudge someone purely based on their choice of attire only because it doesn’t agree with their own personal preferences. They do this even if whatever outfit or article of clothing this person is wearing is in no way a stumbling block to anyone. Should we prejudge someone by their personal choice of fashion? I’ll let you answer this one. The answer is quite obvious, or at least, it should be.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Jesus tells His disciples to trust in Him and everything He will provide and one of these things is clothing. Christ urges people not to focus or worry about the basic things in life, but to shift their focus on Him. There’s many lessons here packed within this passage. First we need to think about when Jesus said this to His disciples. This was during The Sermon On The Mount. To whom was Jesus speaking to? In all likelihood, a crowd of poor farmers. Jesus was telling the financially unstable who were present not to worry about what and when they will eat again, and what they will wear or when their new article of clothing will come next. Is it going too far to assume that the less fortunate who were present at Jesus’ sermon worried about appearing a certain way especially with their attire? Now I ask you…if our Lord tells us not to focus on what we are wearing and focus on “higher” things should this not also apply to how we focus on what others are wearing too?
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
The prophet Samuel “prejudges” Eliab of the house of Jesse when choosing who would precede Saul to be the next king of Israel. Why, because Eliab fit the “stereotype” of what a leader should look like. He was tall, good looking, and well built. We all know how the rest of this account goes. The kingship transfers to a small shepherd boy who wasn’t even present in the gathering to choose Israel’s next leader, because no one believed he would be anything of great importance. This is a perfect example of what happens when we prejudge someone based on a stereotype…WE MAKE A MISTAKE. We rely on what WE think is the right decision and not what God calls us to do which is to think outside of ourselves. Jesus looks into the inner most workings of our heart and passed the exterior. In Samuel, our Lord reminds us that when we rely on our “natural worldly instincts” often times our decision will not be a wise one. How do I know all of this for sure? I do it all the time.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24)