|GOD LOOKS ON THE HEART|
The seeds of bigotry begin when people believe that they are better than others for any reason. From this social view, they justify inequitable treatment of those they consider inferior. This is a dangerous mindset, because it finds its extremity in murder. Germany in the 1930's passed laws stating that Jews were not human. Jews could be robbed, and their houses could be burned, and it was not considered a crime. In 1858, the American Supreme Court ruled that Negro slaves were chattel property, just as cattle and horses were, and so they had no rights.
Recently a pastor in a town in Ohio refused to marry a couple because one was white and the other black. Of course the newspapers took this little story and distributed it nationally, in an attempt to show that Christians are racially prejudiced. It is sad to say, but true, that bigotry has been perpetuated by some believers. Martin Luther, St Augustine, Chrysostom and others denounced the Jews. Hitler even attempted to justify his persecution of the Jews based on Luther's writings. Few Christians were involved in the marches of the 1960's against racial prejudice. Churches did not open their doors to minorities at that time, and many seem indifferent today. Some even attempt to justify their prejudice by claiming that according to a Genesis Scripture some races are cursed. However, in looking at what the Bible says about racial matters, it is clear that the bigot is the one that is cursed.
Moses' Interracial Marriage
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 So they said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?" And the Lord heard it. Numbers 12:1-2 (NKJV)
Miriam and Aaron, Moses' siblings, criticized him when he married a black woman, and used this as an excuse to usurp his authority over Israel. They directly questioned whether God was speaking through Moses because he had married out of his race. However, there is actually no such thing as an interracial marriage, because we are all from one race, the human race, for we read:
"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…" Acts 17:26 (NKJV)
This is very clear and obvious, since we all came from Adam and Eve, and can also trace our lineage from Noah's family, with whom God started over with after the Genesis flood. However, there is a type of marriage union that God forbids, and it is a marriage out of the faith, for we read:
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" 2Corinthians 6:14-15 (NKJV)
Judging According to the Flesh
Miriam and Aaron were "in the flesh" in criticizing Moses' marriage, and the Bible warns against thinking this way when it tells us:
"Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…" 2Corinthians 5:16 (NKJV)
Jesus told the Pharisees that they made faulty judgments because they thought according to man's ways and not God's when He said, "You judge according to the flesh…" John 8:15 (NKJV). One reason why we cannot see clearly is that we underestimate the power our contemporary culture has on us. Our understanding of right and wrong gets mixed up with our traditional values. We are like the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of sin because He did not keep the commands of men, such as the ceremonial hand washings. In Matthew 15:3 we read, "He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition"'? Our pride in traditional thinking has ingrained in us deep-rooted prejudices. Moses did not have this problem, for in the next verse after Miriam and Aaron challenged him, we read the following: "(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)" Next they received an ominous call to the tabernacle.
"4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, 'Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!'" So the three came out. Numbers 12:4
The Curse on Miriam
"So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper." Numbers 12:9-10 (NKJV)
Leprosy speaks to us of incurable sin in the Bible. To have this disease is to suffer and die by inches. Often the leper will have an ear or finger fall off, as the disease makes it way through the body. Sores from it run constantly, and as soon as one dries up, others open. The spiritual analogy is clear – we suffer from sin which is terminal unless the mercy and blood of Jesus Christ is applied. Only through a miracle might a leper be healed, just as only through the miracle of Christ's redeeming salvation, bestowed as we repent through an understanding of our extreme need, are we saved.
For Miriam to be stricken by this disease as a direct judgment from God, was for her sin to be manifest physically. Although a judgment, it was actually a kindness from God, in that it revealed the wickedness of her own heart so that she might no longer be blinded by self-righteousness. The same judgment was due Aaron, but since he was the high priest, he was evidently spared because he could not minister if afflicted by it. Nevertheless, seeing his sister thus judged opened his eyes to his own folly.
"So Aaron said to Moses, 'Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb!' 13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, 'Please heal her, O God, I pray!'" Numbers 12:11-13 (NKJV)
The challenge was to Moses' leadership, and one must read the entire passage to understand all of it. But the challenge originated with a hateful view of another human being, which is the epitome of bigotry. The apostle John said in 1John 4:20: "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" There is no question that discrimination has its root in hatred. When a decision is made to dislike someone based on an unalterable fact of his or her appearance or other human characteristic, it is steeped in sinful pride. Moreover, if we are going to say that marriage between different colors is wrong, where is the line of demarcation? When an Italian marries an Irish person, is that wrong? Who could be the judge of such things, if there were even a legitimate question about them?
Moses did not hate others, because he was humble. His marriage evidently brought the message of God to many in Ethiopia, for his relationship is corroborated by an airlift that occurred in the early 1990's. At that time Israel flew black Ethiopian Jews to Israel, in a mission called "Operation Exodus." Prophetically God has promised throughout the Old Testament to bring back the Jews to Israel, and that airlift was part of the literal fulfillment of those prophecies.
Bigotry Comes in Many Forms
Racism, however, is only one form of bigotry – although perhaps the most overt form. Many who do not consider themselves racial bigots discriminate in many other ways. Some look down on others who do not have the same intellectual gifts as they have. Others discriminate based on education, wealth, and social standing. Satan seeks to separate the church through the subtle attitudes that people hold. God has made all types of people with various abilities not only for the continuation of the church, but also for society. To discriminate against others because they lack some ability is sheer folly. And to make fun of others for any reason is like committing spiritual treason, because a person is dishonoring God when he or she dishonors His creation.
Multitudes have gone to hell over the fact that they found discrimination in the church. Jews have been chased from believing churches in past decades, and anti-Semitic jokes are still told by some Christians. Many blacks have swallowed a social gospel or have become Muslims because of Christian bigotry. Malcolm X, the black leader of the sixties, responded to the Muslims because they hugged him without hesitation, whereas no Christian white man ever showed him such fellowship. Gandhi turned away from the faith when he attempted to go to church but was denied entrance because of his skin color. Our attitudes toward others are the primary foundation through which we minister to them and bring them into God's kingdom. If they are tainted with even a scintilla of distaste due to fleshly characteristics, many will be lost and their blood will cry out against us in eternity.
Those Who Appear Evil are Not Victims of Bigotry
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1Thessalonians 5:22 (KJS)
The Greek word used in this Scripture is eidos, and it means appearance, sight or fashion. The root word is eido, which means "to perceive with the eyes, or perceive with the senses." Modern translations generally use the word "form" instead of appearance, but the most correct word according to the original Greek is appearance for this Scripture.
Some Christians feel that they are being discriminated against when they are actually reaping what they have sowed by disobedience to this Scripture. The outward appearance of evil is dependent upon the societal norms of the day. Women appeared evil in the Apostle Paul's time if their heads were uncovered. In fact, in some parts of the world an uncovered head is still the sign of an immoral woman, but in the West this is not the case. Therefore it is not possible to list specific things that distinguish a person as being part of an evil or immoral group, because such things are in a constant state of flux. Nevertheless, such distinguishing "looks" do exist, and the Christian has to be careful not to become identified with them.
If Christians appear to be the type of people many wish to avoid, it will only limit their usefulness in the kingdom, and bring reproach on the name of Christ. If little old ladies are frightened by the demeanor of a man because he looks and dresses in a manner commonly associated with drug addicts and criminals, why should he expect the people in the church to embrace his "look"? Only immature Christians continue with behavior and styles and fashions that identify them with ungodly people. However, there is grace for those who are newly saved, until they reach a point where they are able to "…put away childish things." (1st Corinthians 13:11) Those who understand the call of Christ to "take up the cross" know that this includes taking inventory of one's self and giving up anything that might in any way be construed as appearing evil. Until this is accomplished, Christians are guilty of idolatry, which blocks the fullness of God's blessings from their lives.
God Looks on the Heart
Many misunderstand the workings of God that are written about in the Old Testament, because they mistakenly believe that He discriminated against the Gentiles in favor of the Jews. However, race was not the issue then anymore than it is today. It was, rather, the natural representation of a spiritual principle – God differentiates between the repentant believer and the unrepentant unbeliever. Even under the Old Covenant, a person could convert to belief in Jehovah, as Solomon reveals in the following prayer.
"Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name's sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name." 1Kings 8:41-43 (NKJV)
King David came from an ancestral line that included Rahab the Harlot, as well as Ruth the Moabitess, neither of whom were Jews according to the flesh. David himself was the victim of bigotry when the Prophet Samuel was sent to choose him as the next king of Israel. Samuel thought that his brother Eliab looked more like a king than David, because of David's youth and short stature. However, God explained why His choice was different in 1Samuel 16:7: "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'"
Even Jesus' enemies realized that He did not discriminate. When they tried to trick Him they began by feigning to compliment Him, in Luke 20:21. "Then they asked Him, saying, 'Teacher, we know that…You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth.'" Perhaps we have all been around someone who considered us inferior to them and felt their condescension. How incredible it must have been to be around Jesus, who had every right to be condescending and yet was not.
Yes, what a wonderful thing – God looks on the heart. Pretty or plain, tall or short, rich or poor, brilliant, average or retarded, athlete or handicapped, educated or illiterate, we are all of the same value to Him. All of us wish to be loved unconditionally, but find that among mankind this is a rare thing. From our childhood all of us have been victims of various prejudices, either due to physical characteristics, or because we lack ability in some area of our lives. This is a small thing for some, but a huge cross to bear for others, depending on their situations. We, however, make the choice every day to partake in the world's bigotry, which is perpetuated by Satan, or treat others the way we wish to be treated. Jesus set the example by promising us in John 6:37, "the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." And we know that in Heaven all will be treated equally, for we are told that:
"And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.'" Revelation 5:9-10 (NKJV)
Remember that bigotry starts with small things – jokes about others, perhaps even teasing within a family because someone has large ears, a big nose, or bad eyesight. Even these seemingly inconsequential snips open the door to more flagrant abuses, and they also leave emotional scars, although the person may laugh along with the "joke". Absolutely no one likes to be teased this way, and everyone is sensitive, even those who say they are not.
If there is dislike in the heart of Christians toward some other "tribe" or culture, the solution is to "pray through" until the bondage of hate is released. In John 8:36 we read, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Otherwise, we will share in a perversity that is not only unworthy of a follower of Christ, but also leaves a legacy of sadness and resentment. The experience of not being accepted because of something over which you have no power, is a frustrating and miserable feeling. Let none of us who have been washed by the Blood be tainted by such an unbecoming vice, for if we lack this basic love of others, no matter what else we may possess, we are nothing.
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." 1Corinthians 13:2-3(NKJV)