28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. (Acts 10:28–29, NKJV)
God separated Israel from the nations and codified that distinction in the law of Moses (Exo. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:1-11). That “middle wall of separation” was broken down in Christ (Eph. 2:14). God taught Peter the nations (Gentiles) were included in His redemptive plan by a dramatic vision. Clean and unclean animals were lowered in a sheet from heaven, and a voice told Peter, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-17). Peter drew the necessary conclusion not to call people “common or unclean.” That truth should permeate our thinking, words, and our treatment of others. Here are some lessons to ponder and apply. 1) The gospel is for all. Sin has defiled all of us (Rom. 3:23). Everyone needs sin’s stain cleansed by Christ (Rom. 1:16; Acts 22:16). Let us share the gospel so others may believe and turn to the Lord (Acts 11:21). 2) Prejudice has no place in the heart and life of Christians. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (skin color, ethnicity, gender, culture, caste, etc.) (1 Sam. 16:7). Grievous errors in judgment happen when based on appearance (Jno. 7:24; Prov. 18:13). 3) Obey God without objection (v. 29). When God has spoken, we listen and obey without resistance and complaint (1 Sam. 3:10). Christians must not murmur against the Lord’s will like Israel did in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). Peter’s example of learning and obeying God’s will continues to encourage us.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45–46, NKJV)
Prejudice keeps souls from believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Bias toward Nazareth almost prevented Nathanael from investigating the evidence that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. To be called a Nazarene was a slur of reproachful disdain (Matt. 2:23). Nathanael had this bias against Nazareth. Fortunately, he accepted Philip’s advice to “come and see” for himself before concluding Jesus was not worth his time and trouble. We must not prejudge people on their skin color, economic status, gender, ethnicity, etc. (Jas. 3:1-9). Neither should we prejudge the gospel of Christ without giving it a fair, unbiased hearing. The people who saw and heard Jesus had abundant evidence to examine that is the Christ, the Son of God (Jno. 5:36). The Bereans verified the gospel was true by examining the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11-12). “Come and see” the evidence the Bible is the word of God and not the word of men (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Free of prejudice, we should examine the Scriptural evidence that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” so that “believing you have life in His name” (Jno. 20:30-31).
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6–7, NKJV)
Even with a miraculous spiritual gift from God, Timothy needed to be encouraged to be courageous to kindle its use. Although such gifts have passed away, we still need boldness to speak the truth and stand for righteousness. The cancel culture would silence voices of reason and faith. They tried to silence early Christians with threats, imprisonments, beatings, and death (Acts 4:17-21; 5:40; 8:1-4; Heb. 10:32-34). Power, love, and soundness of mind are attributes of faith that embolden sincere hearts to speak the truth in love, and with all boldness speak the words of truth and reason (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 4:15; Phil. 1:20; Acts 26:25). Being the salt of the earth and the light of the world requires that we speak out against sin in all of its forms. Any system that oppresses minorities should be called to account for its prejudicial sins (Jas. 2:1; Rom. 13:8, 10). Any system that legalizes killing unborn babies should be called to account for facilitating sin (Rom. 13:9). Any system that legalizes same-sex marriages and other forms of fornication should be called to account for sanctioning sin (Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4). Any system that teaches children they are not their biological gender should be called to account for such corruption (Gen. 1:27). People form systems of government, economics, education, etc. When people choose to live in sin, their societies become corrupt, too. God’s people must not call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). We must abhor evil and cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9). That takes virtuous courage (2 Pet. 1:5; 1 Cor. 16:13).
9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:9–11, NKJV)
The Christian is described as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Conversion to Christ includes a deliberate decision of faith to put away the sins that defined the old person of sin with its deeds and to put on the new person who is in the image of Christ (Col. 3:9-10). Notably, being a new person in Christ is defined by a new way of life, one that ceases the practice of sin and practices righteousness (Col. 3:1-9, 12-17). Being a new person in Christ is not defined by culture (neither Greek nor Jew), previous religious traditions (circumcised nor uncircumcised), ethnicity and race (barbarian, Scythian), or social strata (slave nor free). All of these are in Christ, and yet Christ is not limited by any such things. The gospel is for all the world because all have sinned (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16; 3:23). It is very wrong to look through the lens of race, ethnicity, social strata, human traditions, or any other humanly devised label to identify those who belong to Christ. Scripture says, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Christians ought to act like it and never be driven by prejudices of the heart.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:22–23, NKJV)
Without quoting a specific prophetic reference, Matthew summarized the lowly estate of the Christ by telling of Joseph moving his family to Nazareth (Matt. 2:13-21). The prophets foretold the Messiah would be lowly, despised, and rejected by men (Isa. 53:3-6; Zech. 9:9-10). To be called a “Nazarene” meant more than someone was “from Nazareth.” It was a derogatory label of bias drawn from this insignificant town on the northern outskirts of the nation. (Only those of no consequence (like a carpenter) ever came from Nazareth.) Nathaniel expressed the prevailing contempt toward Nazarenes when Philip told him of finding the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was his retort (Jno. 1:45-46). Prejudice is an ugly thing, and in this case, it led some to reject the Son of God, by using His upbringing in Galilee as proof Jesus was not the Christ (Jno. 7:41-43). Yes, Jesus was “hated without a cause” (Jno. 15:24-25). We must never be driven by prejudice toward anyone, including Jesus. Instead, we should follow the advice Philip gave Nathaniel to “come and see” that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (Jno. 1:46).
18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. 20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:18–20)
Our elected representatives are presently considering a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. A righteous nation seeks to appoint judges who will judge among the people with “just judgment” (v. 18). Such justice requires impartiality – a judge who will not be bribed or swayed by the outward circumstances of either the plaintiff (seeking judicial relief) or the defendant. Poverty and wealth hold no preferential sway over the righteous judge. If it does, then injustice will prevail. Israel was told, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Impartiality is required if justice under the law is to prevail. The judgments of God’s law are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, let us use them to “judge with righteous judgment,” without the bias of circumstance or the prejudice by emotion (Jno. 7:24).
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, (Acts 17:26, NKJV)
The true God does not evaluate human beings on the basis of race or ethnic origin. Nor should we. We are all of “one blood”, descended from Adam and Eve, but created by God (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7). The origin of nations was by the hand of God, as He confused men’s languages to scatter them upon the face of the earth (Gen. 11:9). The governance of the nations is overruled by a Sovereign God, who executes His will upon the earth. While nations rise in power, extend their rule, and then decline into the ash heap of history, it is the Most High God who “rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:32). There is no legitimate place in this world for bias that grows out of the arrogance of supposing one race or ethnicity has superiority over others. In Christ, every vestige of such bias is eliminated: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free; but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11).
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:1–2, NKJV)
What a truly carnal action it is to take a fellow Christian to court to settle a dispute. “For where there is envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3)? Yet, Christians divorce without Scriptural cause, and claim it as “the only solution.” No, sundering what God has joined together is not a solution (Matt. 19:6). When matters arise that disrupt harmony among God’s people, we must be willing to let faithful Christians help us resolve the turmoil, whether it is in business, a marriage, in a family or among friends. “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated” (1 Cor. 6:7)? Pride and prejudice interfere with reconciliation and restoration of godly relationships. Put such sins to death, and pursue peace (Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11).