The offence of prejudice is often levelled at Christians in general and ‘the church’ at large. Sexism, racism, ageism, etc… People often argue that the ideal is for us to live in a tolerant society – but by that they usually mean that everything is tolerated but intolerance – which is rather contradictory.
Here at Emmanuel, as we have worked our way through the New Testament book of Acts we have seen, first in chapter 8 with the Samaritans and the Ethiopian Eunuch and then through chapters 10 & 11 with ‘Gentiles’, how the Lord first addresses and then removes any room for misunderstanding: when it comes to the Gospel, there is no room for prejudice.
Yet even that statement doesn’t necessarily convey the whole picture. What one person means by ‘prejudice’ could be understood by another person as ‘difference’. How do we get this correct as the Bible describes?
There is no doubt that the Bible insists on equality of value for all people under God. Time and again its made clear: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal 3: 28)
At the end of all time, gathered around the throne of God will be people “from every nation, tribe, people and language.” (Rev 7: 9)
In the Gospel, God receives people without distinction. What seemed to have surprised the first (Jewish) Christians is that “God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18). They were amazed that despite the Gentiles apparently godless lifestyle, their pagan worship and immoral ethics, God had decided that the Gospel could be good news for them too!
In the Gospel of the Lord Jesus it doesn’t matter what our starting-point is, but our response must be to “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). We can be accepted by God as we acknowledge our sin and need to change (repent) and trust in the Lord Jesus as our Saviour (believe). Yet implicit in that response to the good news is an expectation that we will change from continuing in what God defines as ‘sin’, seeking primarily to serve ourselves, and turn and seek to love and serve Him instead.
God has no prejudice: He doesn’t mind where we come from or what we’ve done or who we are, in the Gospel He draws us from wherever we are and into His family. That’s great news because we are accepted but its also great news because it means that we change.
What our society means by no prejudice is that everyone must simply accept whatever behaviour we choose without criticism or comment and without any expectation of change. The result is a whole raft of different ways of living all crowded together but with no discussion of what is right or what is wrong because we are told that no-one has the right to decide.
In the Gospel we find that God has the right to decide what is right and what is wrong and He sent Jesus to save us from the consequences of our wrong and into a whole new way of living right, with Him and forever.
What that means is that Christians are bound to take His point of view about how to live. Yet that doesn’t make us prejudice –it just makes us confident: knowing God through the Lord Jesus is the only way to be saved, no matter who you are.