We all have bigotry to one degree or another. What does Jesus say about bigotry?
Let us understand that Jesus loves the whole world.
We will look at jingoism, the danger of telling the truth about national bigotry, xenophobia and God's love for all people.
Jesus’ challenge to jingoism
Jesus’ home crowd praised his preaching, but he knew their bigotry. Like much of American Christianity is mixed with nationalism so was the religion of the Jews. We sing God bless America and think of ourselves as deserving blessings above others. Some churches try to counter this by making their altars a flag-free zone. That may be worthwhile but flags are not the point. Jesus told the jingoistic crowd that even in their Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, God healed gentiles when he could have healed an Israelite (Luke 4:21-30). There are no special nations in the Gospel, except that spiritual nation to which all Christians belong. Heaven’s message is without borders. It is for all people. Jesus did the one thing you are not supposed to do in a bigoted crowd, tell about God’s love for all people.
Telling the truth can be dangerous
What caused the crowd in Jesus’ hometown to want to kill him (Luke 4:21-30)? A recent book is called “A Patriot’s History of the United States.” It may be a good book, but for a lot of people the definition of a patriot is to gloss over a nation’s sins and only tell those parts of the story that make us look good. I doubt that such a book would tell of our war crimes, political and industrial corruption, or our terrible treatment of the poor, numerous ethnic groups, the unborn and immigrants. In fact, when people are brave enough to address such themes they are hounded off the air or boycotted, and at times the Mccarthyists have falsely accused them and even tried to put them in prison. Like Jesus’ home crowd, we don’t like hearing the truth.
We love to believe lies
We love to believe lies. Here is a short list of popular lies in today’s media: Obama is a socialist. NRA executives get a cut of assault weapon sales. They want to take away all our guns. Romney’s son owned voting machines in Ohio. Obama gave Alaskan islands to the Russians. General Motors is becoming China Motors. The debt has not increased under Obama. Obama gave stimulus money to China to build US bridges. According to factcheck.org all of these are false, but we love to believe lies that support our prejudices. When someone comes out with the truth we try to shut them up, denigrate them or find some other excuse to deny the truth. Like Jesus’ hometown we sometimes even want to kill those who tell the truth (Luke 4:21-30). The truth will set us free.
Lies about Christianity
Here are a few lies about Christianity: “God does not want you to suffer.” Wrong! All who live godly lives in Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). “Doctrine does not matter only love does.” Wrong! Love is a doctrine, the most important one (Matthew 22:34-40). “God helps those who help themselves.” Wrong! The Spirit helps in our weakness (Romans 8:26). “Sin is fun.” Wrong! Sin is short-term fun and long-term heartache eventually paying wages of death. “Christians are divided.” Wrong! Christians agree more than they disagree, especially on God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23). “Christians must be anti-intellectual.” Wrong! Christ taught us to love God with all our heart, soul andmind (Matthew 22:37). People don’t like the truth and that is one reason why Christians are persecuted (Luke 4:21-30).
Questions about truth
If Jesus confronted us with truth like his home crowd (Luke 4:21-30), how would we react? Are we offended when someone in our midst is promoted over us or does better than us? Are we bigoted against other nations or ethnic groups? If God blessed a neighboring nation and not ours, would we be angry at him? If Jesus healed people in the next town and not ours, would we reject him? If we heard that Jesus brings good news for all people, why do we reject some people? Do we reject the poor, prisoners, the blind and the oppressed to whom Jesus was sent? Who are the oppressed? Is it foreigners, migrants, minimum wage earners, single mothers, disabled people, ethnic minorities, the elderly or all of these? Jesus’ truth may offend us, but it is still the truth.
We love the little baby Jesus meek and mild. We do not want to hear the provocative Jesus (Luke 4:21-30). But how might our politics look if we allowed Jesus into the debate over immigration reform? How might Jesus inform political opinion about foreigners and similar outsiders? We don’t have to agree with someone to love them. Jesus even told us to love our enemies. But in the political arena, such commands fall on deaf ears. Why do so many Christians claim to follow Jesus, when our political opinions are often the exact opposite of what he taught? But that’s the same in many areas. We claim Christian standards that neither Jesus nor the Apostles claimed as criterion of Christian behavior and we ignore those that they did. Why do we not ask, what would Jesus do or teach?
Xenophobia and Jesus
In school I found foreigners to be very interesting people. I was the only white boy on our high school sports team. The rest were foreign students. Living in other countries I learned to love different accents, cuisines and cultures. Many people are xenophobic, fearing strangers. As a foreigner in different countries and even at times in my own, I have experienced ignorant prejudice. It is that precise attitude that Jesus challenged in Luke 4:21-30. America was founded on multiculturalism. Swedes, Scots, English, Germans, Spanish, Africans, Italians and more melted into a multicultural pot. One common thread runs through all cultures worldwide: people just want to live, love, laugh and have happy families. When we focus on bigotry and hatred we miss out on experiencing the variety of God’s wonderful creation. And the Gospel must also go to them.
Good things I learned from foreigners
In Australia I learned to laugh at myself. Among the Chinese I learned how parents sacrifice for their children. Among the Bedouin I learned about hospitality. Among the English I learned about good manners. Among the Dutch I learned about tolerance. In Germany I learned about hard work and thoroughness. In France I learned about diplomacy. In Poland I learned about the love of children. From Africans I learned about faith and how to simplify. In America I learned about big thinking and a can do attitude. In North Carolina I learned about the importance of encouraging our children. In Maryland I learned to respect those who work with their hands. In West Virginia I learned about being sensitive to people’s feelings. How silly it is to be bigoted against strangers when God loves us all equally (Luke 4:21-30)!
If we are going to take the Gospel into all the world, we cannot afford the luxury of bigotry. Let us allow Jesus to remove all bigotry from our hearts.