By WALTER ALBRITTON
“You sorry dog!” The use of those insulting words sometimes led to a fist fight when I was growing up. Little did I realize this was not a new way to demean someone. The Jews called Gentiles “dogs” 2500 years ago. Even Paul called the Judaizers “dogs” in his letter to the Philippians.
Prejudice has always divided people. It remains a harsh reality in our time. The temptation to scorn other ethnic groups is forever with us. Bigotry stands at the threshold of every heart, ready to walk in whenever self-righteousness leaves the door ajar.
I was not only saved from my sins by trusting Jesus, I was also saved from racism by the grace of God. Growing up in central Alabama I embraced the racism of my parents. Fortunately, the Lord changed them and me. He taught us that we could not truly love Jesus and remain bigoted toward people of a different color.
Jesus leaves his followers no wiggle room for racism. Either we give it up or forfeit the privilege of being his disciples. We cannot love people and discriminate against them at the same time. John illuminates this truth:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God who he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (1 John 4:20-21).
Paul reminds us that the Church is made up of all flavors of people: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Jesus and his disciples were Jews. The disciples were not happy when Jesus insisted on going “through Samaria.” Loving the despised Samaritans into the Kingdom was not on their agenda. But Jesus took them through Samaria anyway. There he ignored social custom by talking to a Samaritan “street” woman who was ostracized by other women. The conversation resulted in the woman, who was thirsty for God’s grace, learning to drink of “living water” that quenched the thirsting of her soul. She was so blessed that she ran into the village to share with others the joy of meeting Jesus.
Many of us who are white have learned to go beyond sending money to missionaries serving in Africa; we are discovering the joy of loving, and serving with, our black and Hispanic neighbors in our own community. That’s what, according to the New Testament, Jesus wants us to do —
extend our love to all people, not just those of our own race. Doing so validates the certain truth that if Jesus died for anyone anywhere, he died for all people everywhere.
If we truly walk with Jesus in today’s culture, we will celebrate our oneness in Christ and also demonstrate it by overcoming prejudice with love. There is, after all, no wiggle room for racist attitudes or bigoted behavior.