"One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true Therefore rebuke them sharply, ." (Titus 1:12)
How could God allow such a slanderous, bigoted statement to appear within His Holy Word? But this is hardly worse than Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites child of hell, blind guides, fools and blind "!! (Matthew 23:13ff)
However, Jesus' statement is not the blanket condemnation it appears to be. Jesus was well aware that not all Pharisees were pompous, self-righteous show-offs. He was simply trying to shake up the complacent. He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" And Paul, rather than writing off a nation, was commenting on a prevailing spiritual climate. What was true for the Cretans was no less true for other peoples who did not know God.
Let us not be misled by nitpicking skeptics. God is not a bigot, and bigotry is inimical to His purposes. Truly, believers' bigotry is the primary impediment to the spreading of the Gospel.
There are many forms of bigotry-- racial, cultural, political, denominational, regional, national -- and believers have historically indulged and continue to indulge in all. Whenever people can be categorized, the possibility of prejudice exists.
Bigotry blinds us to the reality of the oneness of the body of Christ. We fail to see that we all share the same fundamental feelings, goals, and desires. We fail to identify with each other.
Christians who are broad-minded and accepting of all races, may still have problems with certain denominations. Or if not denominations, social or professional classes. I had a friend who was extremely gentle, tolerant, and kind towards all -- but he could not abide policemen, probably because of bad experiences in the past.
We must especially guard against religious bigotry when we engage in fellowship with Christians from other churches. We must accomodate their practices even if we find them strange and distasteful, as long as they are not directly contrary to the Gospel. I once attended a worship service held jointly by an independent charismatic church and an Episcopal church. Communion was served in the traditional Episcopal way, as wine administered from a single cup. Sadly, many of the charismatics could not tolerate this, and left in mid-service. Their action illustrates the current state of the Body of Christ. We let our foibles and human scruples destroy our communion, and so the Body of Christ is rent apart and our witness is ineffective.
Prayer: Father, teach us to judge not according to appearance, but according to righteousness.
Father, move by Your Spirit in Your people, that Jesus prayer might be fulfilled: "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John 17:21-23).
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Last Revised: November 24, 2002
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