Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1-2 NASB)
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:16-18 NASB)
The Bible says that God alone understands what is in a person’s heart, but do we really believe that? Quite often, our thoughts and actions toward others reveal that we do not truly believe it. The truth is, all of us harbor prejudices and suspicions that affect our reception of others, and most of the time we are not even aware of them.
This became painfully clear to me during a trip to New York. To me, the northern part of the United States is a land of mystery. Most of my life has been lived in the South, and usually when I was not in the South I was overseas. Seldom have I ventured to the North, and then only briefly. Although I have had friends and colleagues from the northern states (“Yankees” as we call them back home), I have seldom encountered them in their native regions. Honestly, I do not really know people from the North. The perceptions I have come from stories others have told, from what I have read in books and seen in pictures, and from what I have discerned in the news.
My perceptions of Yankees, I am ashamed to say, are uniformly negative. The stereotypes in my mind portray people from Massachusetts to Oregon as unchurched, unkind, uncouth, and uncaring. Never mind that the people I have met from those regions do not reflect that stereotype. They seemed to be the exception, or so my stereotypes told me.
The saddest part about this is that I did not know I had such deep-seated prejudices. The trip to New York helped me see my attitude. It began on the drive up, when we met nice people at every stop. The toll booth operators, gas station attendants, waitresses, police officers, and others were all polite and courteous, not curt and rude as I expected. But the best surprise came when we spent an evening with the family whose guest rooms we rented for the weekend. They were Christians, and they were not ashamed to share the love of their Lord with their guests.
As we sat around a campfire in fellowship, we developed a bond deeper than friendship. It seems we had each acquired profound testimonies of coming into relationship with our Creator, and maturing through the renewing work of His Holy Spirit. It did not matter that our dialects were strange to one another. All that mattered was our family connection through a shared relationship with the same Redeemer.
How much fellowship have I missed over the years because of my hidden prejudices? If this was my attitude toward brethren in Yeshua, what is my attitude toward those who do not know Him? I need to make this a matter of earnest prayer. If I truly want to follow my Messiah’s example, then I must identify and let go of anything that prevents me from seeing all people as precious in His sight.
Albert J. McCarn