The word “prejudice” gets thrown around a lot these days. At its core, it’s the idea that someone would make a negative snap judgment about someone else before they really know them. Maybe it’s an assumption about who that person is based on their race, nationality, the kind of clothes they wear, or the way they talk — basically, it could be based on anything.
One of the many beautiful things about the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30–37 is that it is a story that defies prejudice. Not only is the hero of the story the very type of person that Jesus’ audience would’ve been naturally prejudiced against, a Samaritan, but the man in need in the story is purposely left nondescript — just “a man” who fell among robbers. In that way, he’s the everyman. He’s every broken, hurting and lost person you’ve ever known, the representation of all the people we should be reaching out to without discrimination.
In a different passage, Jesus lets his disciples ponder a similar thought when describing those who will inherit the kingdom of God:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
— Matthew 25:35–40
When I think of what it means to be the Church, I think of this passage. Here’s a group of people who have been shown grace and mercy from God, and now they’re reaching out to the lost, the broken, and the hurting. Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” A poignant statement. Are we regularly welcoming the strangers? If I’m honest, the truth is that too many times, I let my prejudices get in the way.
I know we don’t want to admit it, but based on the definition above, I think we all fall into the trap of prejudice more often than we realize. The regrettable truth is that I look at that person on the side of the road holding their tattered sign, begging for help, and I make assumptions. In a split second, I decide whether that person is just going to use any generous gifts on alcohol and drugs. Or maybe I overhear someone talking in a public place, and based on the kind of language they use and what they’re talking about, I decide whether or not this is someone I’d ever strike up a conversation with, whether this is someone I could see myself inviting to church.
I know when we think of the word prejudice, we think of the hateful things people might do in the name of discrimination. However, maybe some of the worst kinds of prejudice, and the most common, are the little things we decide not to do. It’s those times when, in a biased instant, we decide whether or not to help someone, whether or not to share the gospel, whether or not someone is too messy to deal with, whether or not someone is a lost cause. Wow, what if God had thought that way about us?
Perhaps this is the very kind of snap judgement that kept the priest and the Levite in the parable from helping the man in need and just leaving him hurting on the side of the road. But thankfully, that’s not what the Good Samaritan did. It’s time to be very honest with ourselves and evaluate our hearts. Are there hundreds of little assumptions and judgments that we’re making every day that are keeping us from reaching out, from helping those in need, from sharing our faith with someone, or inviting them to church? If so, let us pray for a heart like our Savior, a heart for the broken, the lost, the stranger. God, move us to be a people that will chase after those who need you, because it wasn’t that long ago that it was us broken and hurting on the side of the road.