Love Conquers Prejudice
“A new form of religious community appeared for the first time in history: not a nation celebrating its patriotic cult, but a voluntary group, in which social, racial and national distinctions were transcended: men and women coming together just as individuals, before their god.”—A History of Christianity, by Paul Johnson.
AS TRUE Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, people saw something amazing—an international spiritual family that had learned to live together in true peace and unity. The secret of the peace of this “family” was genuine love, which was based, not on mere sentiment, but on the very principles taught by God.
Those principles were embodied in Jesus Christ, who himself was an object of hatred and vicious prejudice. (1 Peter 2:21-23) For one thing, he was from Galilee, and Galileans—who were mostly farmers and fishermen—were looked down upon by the Jewish religious elite in Jerusalem. (John 7:45-52) Also, Jesus was an outstanding teacher who was loved and respected by the common people. Because of this, the religious leaders became so envious of him that they spread lies about him and even plotted to kill him!—Mark 15:9, 10; John 9:16, 22; 11:45-53.
Yet, Jesus did not “return evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17) For example, when individual Pharisees—members of a Jewish sect that opposed Jesus—sincerely approached him with questions, he kindly answered them. (John 3:1-21) He even dined with Pharisees, including one who had exhibited a measure of prejudice toward Jesus. How so? In those days it was customary to wash a guest’s feet; yet, the Pharisee failed to extend that courtesy to Jesus. Did Jesus take offense? No. In fact, he used the evening to teach a beautiful lesson in compassion and forgiveness.—Luke 7:36-50; 11:37.
Jesus Loved the Despised
One of Jesus’ best-known parables is that of the good Samaritan, in which a Samaritan man, at his own expense, attended to the needs of a Jew who had been beaten and robbed. (Luke 10:30-37) Why was the Samaritan’s deed so noble? In real life, Jews and Samaritans despised one another. In fact, “Samaritan” was often used by Jews as a term of contempt—one that was even leveled at Jesus himself. (John 8:48) Against that background, Jesus could hardly have used a more powerful illustration of impartial neighbor love.
Jesus backed up his words by example, healing a Samaritan leper. (Luke 17:11-19) In addition, he taught other appreciative Samaritans, even having an extended conversation with a Samaritan woman—an especially noteworthy event. (John 4:7-30, 39-42) Why? Strict Jewish rabbis would not speak to any woman in public—even a close relative—not to mention a Samaritan woman!
How, though, does God view a person who has prejudices but is struggling to eliminate them from his heart? Once again, the Bible gives us comforting insight into the matter.
God Is Patient With Us
In the first century, many Jewish Christians were initially influenced by long-standing prejudices against non-Jews, a large number of whom were becoming believers. How did Jehovah God deal with this potentially divisive problem? He patiently educated the Christian congregation. (Acts 15:1-5) That patience bore good fruitage, for as mentioned at the beginning of this article, “social, racial and national distinctions were transcended.” As a result, “the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”—Acts 16:5.
The lesson? Don’t give up, but continue to look to God, who generously gives wisdom and moral strength to those who “keep on asking in faith.” (James 1:5, 6) Do you recall Jennifer, Timothy, John, and Olga mentioned in the first article of this series? By the time Jennifer attended secondary school, she had grown spiritually and had learned to ignore racial slurs and comments about her stature. Soon thereafter, when another girl became the target of insults by classmates, Jennifer spoke up for her and comforted her.
What helped Timothy keep his cool when fellow students taunted him with racial slurs? He says: “I was concerned about the reproach I would bring on Jehovah God’s name. Also, I kept remembering that we must ‘keep conquering the evil with the good’ and not allow evil to conquer us.”—Romans 12:21.
John overcame his prejudice toward his Hausa classmate. “As a teenager,” he recalls, “I met some Hausa students who became my friends. I worked with one such student on a joint project, and we got on very well. Now I try to look at people as individuals, not as belonging to a certain race or tribe.”
Olga and her missionary companion did not cower when persecuted by hateful opposers, but they remained steadfast, confident that some people would appreciate the Bible’s message. Many did. “Some fifty years later,” says Olga, “a man approached me and handed me a beautiful satchel. Inside were small stones on which Christian qualities, such as goodness, kindness, love, and peace, were engraved. He then told me that he was one of those boys who had thrown stones at me and that now he was my Christian brother. He and his wife then gave me two dozen white roses in addition to the satchel of stones.”
When Prejudice and Discrimination Will Be No More!
Soon prejudice and discrimination will cease to be. How so? For one thing, the earth will have as its sole Ruler the very one who demonstrated that he “will not judge by any mere appearance to his eyes”—Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 11:1-5) Further, Jesus’ earthly subjects will then perfectly mirror his attitude, for all will have been educated by him and his Father, Jehovah God.—Isaiah 11:9.
That spiritual education is now well under way, preparing God’s people for life in a completely new system of things. So why not take advantage of that free educational program by having your own Bible study? * Yes, God is not partial; it is his will that all sorts of people “should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
^ par. 18 If you would like to have a free Bible study at a time and place of your convenience, call the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or one of the branch offices listed on page 5. Or contact Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Web site www.watchtower.org.
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Soon prejudice and discrimination will cease to blight mankind
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GODLY PRINCIPLES TO LIVE BY
▪ “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . Keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Romans 12:17-21) The point? Let the bad in others bring out the good in you. “They hated me without cause,” said Jesus Christ. Yet, he did not respond in the same manner.—John 15:25.
▪ “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) Ask yourself, ‘How do I like to be treated?’ Treat other people in the same way, regardless of their age, skin color, language, or culture.
▪ “Open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you.” (Romans 15:7, Phillips) Do you try to get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures, especially if they are fellow servants of God?—2 Corinthians 6:11.
▪ “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) No matter how others may treat you, God will never abandon you if you remain loyal to him.
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A neighborly Samaritan comes to the aid of a Jew who has been robbed