By Jimmy Tuten
Our society is pressure-filled, problem-racked and sin-soiled. There are failures, disappointments, rudenesses and unkindnesses that affect us. Some are psychologically bruised and battered. Hearts are bleeding from wounds that are raw and constant. There are those whose actions belie their claim to be Christians and who, instead of being the preservatives that the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) should be, are heaping affliction upon affliction. Like beasts of the field there is the rushing in to viciously attack and destroy the spiritually wounded and the afflicted. Why do some of our brethren ignore Galatians 6:1-2 and similar passages with their guerrilla like tactics? Because of prejudice! Prejudice blocks forever the channels of love and it blurs the eyes of reason. As long as prejudice exists there is no hope in this life or in the world to come. Prejudice cannot see things as they are, because it is always looking for things that aren’t. It sees what it pleases, but cannot see what is plain.
The dictionaries define “prejudice” as “preconceived judgment or opinion, especially an opinion or learning adverse to anything without grounds, or before sufficient knowledge.” The Bible speaks of dealing with one another “without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). The expression, “without preferring” is from the Greek prokrima, denoting pre-judging (akin to prokrino, to judge beforehand), being put aside, by unfavorable judgment due to partiality (Vine, Thayer, etc.). Prejudice is that action which forms conclusions without sufficient evidence while ignoring and disregarding all facts. It squints when it looks and lies when it talks. Prejudice is a sin that needs to be conquered by all. If we can conquer this we will probably be victorious, for truly the proverb is correct: “conquer your passions and you conquer the whole world.” There is little or no hope for the Christian who judges matters before getting all the facts and condemns others in violation of the principle: “doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (Jn. 7:51)
One must not confuse prejudice with “preference.” Just because we have likes and dislikes that are peculiar does not mean that we are pre-judging. Real prejudice is the abandonment of valid processes of correct reasoning that leads to sound conclusions. This, in turn, causes one to preclude the possibility of advancing knowledge beyond those conclusions. A prejudiced person always knows all there is to know about the matter.
Prejudice is one of the most vicious characteristics of humanity. In view of it, steadfastness against it is one of our greatest needs. But there are sacrifices involved in eliminating prejudice: the sacrifice of personal ambition for principle’s sake, the bridling of the tongue by eliminating from our vocabulary prejudicial statements, half-truths, “preacher” pronouncements that stigmatize brethren and assassinate character, and the wresting of Scripture. When will we learn that many souls in sadness will learn in the day of judgment that “behold, I thought” is the pavement that leads to hell? We must believe all that God says and do all that God says. The Jehoiakims of our day must cease their spiritual and mental pen-knifing of the word of God and put an end to all the common talk floating around. We are to prove all things and hold fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). We are not to believe everyone that speaks, no matter what position he holds. Rather, we are to “try the spirits” (1 Jn. 4: 1). Concerning men, our Lord says, “doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? ” (Jn. 7:5 1) ” He that answereth a matter (i.e., returneth a word, jt) before he heareth it, it is a folly and shame unto him,” indeed! (Prov. 18:13)
How Prejudice Comes
Prejudice does not come through heredity, i.e., the transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring by means of genes in the chromosomes, or from characteristics inherited. genetically by an individual. Neither does prejudice come instinctively (inborn tendency to behave in a way characteristic of a species). Various publications in the field of psychology that deal with behaviorism point out that the following factors contribute to prejudice:
(1) Early impressions and experiences that mold our ideas, ideals and attitudes.
(2) The culture in which one lives. This would include the religious, the social, etc.
(3) Associations with people who are of the disposition to be closed-minded.
(4) False generalizations such as thinking that all Christians are radical because one or two are radical. Well might it be said: the problem with most folks is not their ignorance as much as knowing so many things that are not so!
Some Examples of Prejudice
Prejudice in spiritual matters is illustrated in Acts 4:13-22. Peter and John had to give an answer before Jewish leaders because they had healed a lame man. The Jews could not fault the miracle or fault the teaching that the miracle confirmed. Facts demanded that they accept both the miracle and the message, but prejudice dictated otherwise. They were commanded and ordered “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” We may be amazed at their prejudice, but remember that their tribe did not die out. As a matter of fact, instead of accepting the truth many such persons have been known to cancel their subscriptions to sound publications rather than accepting the truths they contain. Truly, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. (2 Tim. 4:2).
Denominationalism thrives on prejudice. A few years back I was baptizing someone in the Gulf of Mexico after a worship period in Lecanto, Florida. Some sectarian people (young men who were swimming, actually) started berating us and when I rebuked them, they then started making fun of us. Since that time I have noticed that some brethren continue to sink to new lows in their denunciation of those who disagree with them. Some even are wont to compliment the denominational people on their agreeable spirit, cooperation and ability while condemning those of us who challenge their damnable doctrines. Such men will wake up in a devil’s lake of fire and brimstone because they have fought against doctrine and made fun of the truth of Jehovah. It does not please men to have to say this, but we had better wake up to the danger of prejudice in our lives, to the fact that the present “Christians in most denominations ” philosophy does not automatically make denominational people an alternate faith among true children of God (Eph. 4:4-6), and opposition to truth (whether among sectarians or brethren) makes one an opponent to the faith as that of Elymas himself (Acts 13:8-13). Need it be said that like Saul of Tarsus, these men’s opposition springs from ignorance and unbelief fed by their prejudice?
Prejudice In Others And Its Results
Prejudice is a dangerous leaven that destroys even the vessel that contains it and contaminates all who come in contact with it. There is littleness and meanness about prejudice that genuine wisdom cannot endure. Knowing full well that the complete warning of the matters now presented will not be sufficiently recognized in our day of a divided church and party spirit, I offer them with some hope.
(1) Family ties sometimes create prejudice. John the Baptist struck hard at the stubborn sins of the people of his day with vigorous denouncement. His words were sharp and cutting, but they cut to the heart of their prejudices as they called for fruit worthy of repentance. This fire and brimstone preacher cried out, saying, “begin not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Lk. 3:8). The people of John’s audience could not see that family ties (Abraham’s seed) did not eliminate personal accountability for sin (Ezek. 18:4-20).
Many people in denominationalism still move upon this basis. Some in the church are doing the same thing. There is not a single nitch to be found anywhere in heaven on the basis of family clan, literally or spiritually. Sometimes members of one’s personal family (in total disregard for honesty, decency and the word of God) have acted with impunity and maliciousness, while at the same time thinking that being a member “of the family” grants them immunity. In the spiritual realm brethren have been known to act in the most unchristian manner because of spiritual family ties (God’s family, the church) and geographical influences. They are striking examples of the worse phases of the “party spirit” which blinds to truth, hardens from conviction, destroys tenderness. Prejudices make cruelty and spiritual crime impossible. We can’t be wrong, we belong to the Church of Christ. Scarcely any evil force has exerted in the times in which we live so baneful an influence.
(2) Jealousy sometimes creates prejudice. My mind goes back nineteen hundred years to the town of Antioch of Pisidia. Paul and Barnabas have preached in the synagogues. Some are receptive (Acts 13:43-44). The next Sabbath presented a different and terrible situation. “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).
Look at the rocks of heartache and sadness that have been scattered on the highways of life that have resulted from jealousy. The Bible and history alike are filled with such examples.
(3) Supposition sometimes creates prejudice. Paul’s voyage to Rome was preceded by events precipitated by suppositions that festered into prejudice. Prejudice caused the Jews to falsely charge Paul with having taken a Greek into the temple and defiling it (Acts 21:28). This false charge would never have been made if supposition had not entered into the picture. The accusers had “supposed” that Paul had taken Trophimus the Ephesian into the temple because they had earlier seen them together in the city. How much trouble would be eliminated if somehow, by some miracle, all our suppositions could be wiped out. “But, I thought” is still heard today as justification for sinful actions. The Bible still says “prove all things.”
As for the fruits of prejudice, their numbers are legion. There is blind indifference (Matt. 13:14-15), mockery (Matt. 13:54-57), dishonesty (Matt. 28:11-15; Acts 13:6-11), and much more.
Who Is Effected By Prejudice?
If the object of the prejudice is a person, he becomes the victim! How difficult it is not to become bitter and disillusioned. But some have and are known to have “quit the Church” because of it. In our self-righteousness we condemn these discouraged ones for their apostasy in our attempts to justify our own placing of offences before them. Both the offender and the offended stand condemned. The words of the Lord in Matthew 18:5-7 should be committed to memory by each child of God.
Some of those affected react by becoming aggressive and by lashing out at all who give indication of prejudicial action. Show me the preacher or Bible class teacher who has not felt, at one time or another, the sting of prejudice and I’ll show you a person who is not preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God (Lk. 6:26). Young preachers, listen to me (for I have been there): do not seek revenge for abuses heaped upon you as a fruit of prejudice. Smother your hurt and turn the other cheek. Just keep on preaching the truth wherever brethren will let you preach, and wherever you can by keeping in mind that one cannot neglect his responsibility before God. Besides, vengeance belongeth to the Lord (Rom. 12:19). Learn this now and you will have fewer sleepless nights and less gnawing at the lining of your stomach. Some older preachers need to heed this advice too.
Some victims are guilty of resorting to compromise and appeasement. Though they know exactly what is going on in the brotherhood or within the local church, rather than be labeled or stir the water, they remain silent as a tomb.
How sad. The fruits of the assassinators of character keep enlarging because too many will not honestly face up to the prejudice that has permeated their lives like gangrene.
Look at the subject himself. His personal prejudice pours forth thorns and thistles, for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts (Matt. 9:4). There cannot be sweet water pouring forth from a fountain that is corrupt (Jas. 3:11). Denominational people have proliferated books that were designed to attack Christians unmercifully (Campbellism Exposed, A Review of Campbellism, etc.). Sectarians have said in debate (as they condemn us to hell), “I know of only three things born of water: a tadpole, a mosquito and a ‘Campbellite.”‘ Most of us have been accused of not believing in the Holy Spirit because we opposed Calvinism, teach water salvation because we advocate baptism for the remission of sins, etc.
Our brethren’s prejudices have been known to surface too. “You’re an anti,” “top Water,” “do nothingers,” “legalists,” “too dogmatic,” etc. Yes, the sin of prejudice lurks in the dark corners of many a heart. Modern language labels it “politics.”
What Can We Do About It?
First of all make an honest effort at self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5). Recognize your own prejudices (we all have some, whatever be the degree of them) and strive to eradicate them. If you cannot rid yourself of them, then do not act on them. Encourage others to do the same. It takes a wise man to know when he is fighting for a principle, or merely defending a prejudice. In short, don’t air your prejudices; smother them. Experience has shown that brethren have a lot to say about the need for preachers, but then turn right around and nail them to the cross of prejudice.
Christians as soldiers of the cross are to be steadfast in the face of prejudice, resisting it at all times. He is to be unmoveable in all things that are absolutely right and cannot be wrong. Through the ages this admirable quality has always been approved, appreciated, and applauded by the sons of men. Prejudicial persons will not deter steadfast Christians for a single moment. In the face of joy or grief, prosperity or poverty, or acceptance or prejudicial rejection, we are to exemplify the virtue of opposing all error and supporting all truth.
In 1777 a baby boy was born in the commonwealth of Virginia. At an early age, he along with his parents moved to the commonwealth of Kentucky. While yet in his early adult years he became widely known as a fluent, powerful, and adept orator. He eventually became a congressman, and sometime later Secretary of State of our United States. Eventually he had ambitions to become president. On one occasion a bill came before Congress which involved Texas and the servitude of slavery. He was informed by this political advisors that if he voted a certain way in regard to the bill he should never expect to become president. Henry Clay, the aspiring statesman, turned to his counselors and stated, “I had rather be right than President.” How badly do our brethren need to know the value of sacrifice of personal ambition for principle’s sake! No prejudice has ever been able to prove itself in the court of reason.
Just as a river is not turned into light and power until a dam is placed across it, so no life ever grows great until it is steadfastly focused, dedicated, and disciplined. There is a dire need in the church in our generation for men of conviction. Whether in regard to people or principle, there has never been a greater need for steadfastness in the service of the Savior.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 22, pp. 675-676, 693, 695
November 21, 1985