Have you allowed your upbringing or experiences to prejudice you against a particular group of people? Women? Men? The poor? The rich? Asians? Jews? Black or White?
Prejudice leads to hatred and a lack of compassion toward others. To the contrary, God’s people are to be known for their love and compassion. Surrendering your life to God means recognizing and relinquishing your prejudices.
Take a look in the Bible at Jonah. He hated the people of Nineveh for their cruelty toward his people, the Israelites. He would’ve loved to have gone to Nineveh and declare God’s judgment against them. But God told Jonah to go and warn them of destruction so they might avoid God’s wrath. Jonah wanted no part in this mission of mercy. He tried to run away, but God wouldn’t have it. When Jonah reluctantly obeyed and preached to the Ninevites, they changed their ways. And not surprisingly, Jonah was upset at God’s mercy on the Ninevites.
God practically had to force Jonah to let go of his prejudice and hatred. This was necessary so he could share God’s mercy with the people he hated. Your spiritual transformation will be stunted until you let go of your prejudices toward any people group. Seeing your own prejudices doesn’t come easy. You need to ask God and those close to you to help you see areas of prejudice in your life. Once you see them, confess them and ask God to change your heart.
Tony’s father died when he was a young boy. The event devastated him, and he plummeted into a yearlong depression. He eventually pushed the depression aside, however, through his achievements. He poured himself into his schoolwork and athletics, and excelled in both. He went on to college and into business knowing nothing but success because of his commitment to hard work and achievement.
As a young man, Tony, somewhere deep inside him, asked himself, Am I a man? But he couldn’t come up with an answer. His father, the main man in his life, was dead. Young Tony didn’t know by example what a real man was. The question persisted: Am I a man? Without the example and instruction of his father, Tony saw the achievement-oriented men in his culture and deduced that a real man was someone who worked hard, earned lots of money, and climbed the ladder of success. Any threat to his achievement, therefore, was a threat to his manhood, and that kept him perpetually angry.
In his ignorance, Tony wrongly defined manhood as something he did, not something he was. Are you like Tony? Maybe you’re like many men who were abandoned physically or emotionally by their fathers. If your definition of masculinity is linked to doing something there’s a good chance you often don’t feel like a man. And if you’re a dad, I encourage you to reflect on what message your sending your kids on what it means to be a man.
Do you tend to keep a mental list of all the wrongs that have been done against you’an accounting of what you think others owe you? You may feel they owe you an apology, a favor, a sum of money, or something else. If every time you’re hurt, you’re mentally adding to the ledger of debt that others owe you, I want to help you see how and why to let go and erase that ledger of debt.
Jesus told this story to address what I’m talking about: ‘A king’decided to bring his accounts up to date’In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.’ The man begged for forgiveness. ‘Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.’ This was reported to the king. ‘Then the king called in the man he’d forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant. I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:23-35).
When you look at the enormous moral debt God has forgiven you and the price Jesus paid for us to be forgiven, you should be compelled to forgive others. Forgiveness will free you from the torture of festering resentment. You can’t change what others have done to you, but you can write off their debts by handing the accounting process over to God.