Prejudice is inherent to humanity. Prejudice, in its most heinous form, can be seen in the recent events of South Carolina. In a stirring article by Albert Mohler on his website, he writes, “The ideology of racial superiority is one of the saddest and most sordid evidences of the Fall and its horrifying effects. Throughout history, racial ideologies have been driving forces of war, of social cohesion, of demagoguery, and of dictatorships.”
As Mohler reflects on and acknowledges this own denominational tradition, one whose founders expressed racism openly, he writes this:
Racial superiority is also directly subversive of the gospel of Christ, effectively reducing the power of his substitutionary atonement and undermining the faithful preaching of the gospel to all persons and to all nations. To put the matter plainly, one cannot simultaneously hold to an ideology of racial superiority and rightly present the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think that Mohler is expressing something that Paul states clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:14-16. The apostle reflects on the love of Christ expressed through the fact that Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” And then he draws this conclusion:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
What does it mean that we regard no one according to the flesh? The NIV helpfully translates that last phrase, “We regard no one from a worldly point of view.” As Christians, we don’t look at people like the world does. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t look at people the way our hearts often want us to look at them: dividing them up by external things. For those who truly know Christ, there is no place for prejudice that primarily regards people according to their class, clothing, race, education, or other factors.
In fact, Paul says that part of the reason we no longer regard people according to the flesh is that we no longer regard Christ according to the flesh. When Jesus walked the earth, he was dismissed because of the town he lived in, because of the occupation of his father, and for countless other reasons.
As Isaiah 53:2-3 prophesied hundreds of years before Christ would walk the earth,
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hid their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not.
And yet, for those whose eyes have been open to see the true beauty of the glory of Christ and his work, we regard him thus no longer. We see the reality of who he really is and what he had done for us. More so, if we once looked at Christ as the world does but now see his beauty and glory, how can we still look at the world as the world does? How can we still regard people in a worldly way?
I was given a sobering reminder of the seed of this prejudice while I was on a service project last week with our middle school students. A group of us were working at a homeless shelter, and I told our students that we would be eating with the guests at the shelter that afternoon. Almost immediately there was a look of anxiety and questions as to whether we really had to do that because the people smelled weird and were scary.
Wanting to regard people from a worldly perspective is natural to us as sinful people. I remember feeling exactly same way the first time I ate at a homeless shelter when I was a middle school student. Yet, the gospel does not allow for prejudices to remain. In fact, the reality that Christ died for all — the smelly, the unattractive, the high class, the low class, and every color on the spectrum — drives us to no longer regard people as we once did.
If we learned anything from Veggie Tales “Larryboy and the Fib from Outer Space,” it’s that sin that isn’t confronted grows and grows and grows. Let’s not leave our prejudices to fester into something more heinous and ugly. Confront them now with the truth of the gospel and the glory of who Christ is. Let’s put aside external illusion according to the flesh and allow the Holy Spirit to readjust our eyes to the reality of the gospel.