Forty-eight years ago today a young man did what many an American does; he decided he wanted to go to college. There was only two problems with that: 1) he was a black man, and 2) he was trying to enter into the University of Mississippi. James Meredith did enter Ole Miss but his action helped spark the civil rights movement in the United States. Mr. Meredith wanted to force the Kennedy Administration to back its words with action, using military force if necessary.
The surprising thing about Mr. Meredith is he was not your prototypical civil rights leader. Mr. Meredith considered himself an individual who demanded and received the rights properly extended to any American. Mr. Meredith was not the darling of the civil rights movement for many reasons, among them his being a Republican and serving for several years as a domestic advisor to Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Mr. Meredith is quoted as saying:
“Nothing could be more insulting to me than the concept of civil rights. It means perpetual second-class citizenship for me and my kind.”
Bigotry is an ugly thing and our nation still bears the wounds and scars of a long history of it. We fought a civil war over the evil institution of slavery, and before anyone tries to tell me it was a war for states’ rights, please go do your homework first!
Jesus Christ Himself faced bigotry because of His vocation:
“Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.’” (Mark 6:1-4)
Now what is going on here in this passage? Simply, some are trying to poison the minds of the crowd by negating Jesus’ obvious wisdom by invoking a prejudice against Jesus’ family and its vocation. Matthew Henry writes:
“Our Lord’s countrymen tried to prejudice the minds of people against Him. Is not this the carpenter? Our Lord Jesus probably had worked in that business with his father. He thus put honor upon mechanics, and encouraged all persons who eat by the labor of their hands. It becomes the followers of Christ to content themselves with the satisfaction of doing good, although they are denied the praise of it. How much did these Nazarenes lose by obstinate prejudices against Jesus! May divine grace deliver us from that unbelief, which renders Christ a savor of death. Let us, like our Master, go and teach cottagers and peasants the way of salvation.”
There is a bigotry that infects the church today. I have been guilty of it in my past; the Lord made me realize I had a list. A list that had either the names of people or a type of people whom I believed could never be saved. On that list were bikers, punk rockers, overly tattooed people, those standing on the side of the road with a sign that says “Will work for food”; you know the kind, the dregs of society. Kind of like…
“Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’” (Luke 19:1-7)
Go ahead and admit that you would have never stepped foot in Zacchaeus’ house in Jesus’ day. No? Okay, it’s probably just me, which is appropriate this being a conversation between God and me.
Bigotry has no place in our hearts. It is rooted in our sinfulness and nurtured in our upbringing.
What prejudices do you harbor today?
Confess them to Christ and seek forgiveness.
You never know, you just might ask a Samaritan woman for a drink of water!
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Copyright © 2010 David Jeffers
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