Prejudice and discrimination are sometimes used interchangeably, but shouldn’t be.
Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude (usually negative) toward an individual(s) based on their nationality, gender, socio-economic standing, age, etc.
Discrimination is the unfair treatment of those individual(s). In other words, prejudice is how we think (pre-judge) and discrimination is putting those thoughts into action.
There is a humorous tale about two apples in a tree looking down on the world. The first apple said, “Look at all those people fighting and hating. No one seems willing to get along with anyone else. Someday, apples will be the only ones left and we’ll rule the world.”
The second apple answered, “Yes, but which ones? The reds or the greens?”
Like the apples, everyone to varying degrees and in different areas is prejudiced. We don’t like to admit it and we tend not to see it in ourselves.
As Christians, we would like to think we aren’t prejudiced and that is how it should be … but it is not so. The early church struggled with the acceptation of Gentiles (non-Jews) into the church. It required a vision from heaven to convince Peter otherwise (Acts 10:9-23).
The epistle of James addressed the matter of seating people in the assembly according to their wealth. James wrote that they should not “…give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor.’ ” (James 2:3).
These sorts of problems continued to persist. Mahatma Gandhi wrote that as a student, he read the Gospels and seriously considered converting to Christianity. He felt that Jesus’ teachings could solve the harsh caste system of India.
One Sunday, he attended a nearby church hoping to talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. However, as he entered the building, an usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people.
That usher’s prejudice betrayed, rather than portrayed, the person and teaching of Jesus and turned a seeking soul away from a loving Saviour.
General Robert E. Lee, a devout Christian, provided a remarkable example. He visited a church following the American Civil War. During the communion service, he knelt beside a black man.
Someone later asked him, “How could you do that?” Lee replied, “All ground is level beneath the cross.”
Prejudice and discrimination may be a bit more subtle these days, but it is still present.
In light of that, we need to be reminded that all men are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26,27) and that “… God does not show partiality.” (Acts 10:34).
We shouldn’t, either.
Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.