I have a hard time shopping anywhere other than Target. I find myself exploring the aisles an average of two times a week. Now, that isn't a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, however, you have to factor in that on some occasions, there are events that require last minute help where Target is the answer. There is no saying why this happened, but I am in no way sorry about it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was leaving this familiar place when I saw something unfamiliar. While sitting in the turn lane, I experienced something that was new to me; a woman wearing what seemed to be a hijab, (a traditional muslim head covering), driving a lifted red Ram 1500. This truck was tough! And this woman wasn’t quite who I would peg for driving such a monster of a vehicle. As I chuckled to myself about not fully understanding the situation, my mind began to wonder. Maybe she was a construction worker? Or possibly her husband worked in some form of blue collar labor that required a truck? Either way, my mind was convinced that this was a first.
But why was it such a deal? Why did my mind mark this moment as special or different? As I drove away from Target I began to interact with the Lord about this brief moment of life, and He brought up the commonly oppressive tool known as stereotypes. Would I have even noticed if a man was driving the truck? Or if the woman was white? Those are normal everyday occurrences. When you add something “out of place,” my brain is triggered to immediately start thinking aboutthe differences.
Stereotypes exist because of the fear of vulnerability, our unwillingness to find a place of understanding, a fear of different or new things, or our own lack of confrontation. Oftentimes they are tied to deep-rooted racism, sometimes even against ourselves. It is easier to presuppose something about an individual then to actually engage with them as people. Technology has aided in the ease of escapism, from others and from ourselves. We need to take a long, hard look at stereotypes and racism for the betterment of mankind. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is their male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28. This is echoed in Colossians 3:11as well “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
Judgement in the form of stereotypes and racism is the enemy’s playground, set up to deteriorate the importance of equality. Equality, to some, is an ignorant utopian ideal that has no space here on earth. Jesus, however, uses it as a by product of His love. Through love we are set free. If we truly understand how Jesus loves us, we are able to celebrate and champion the individual as a part of the whole. Equality through love then becomes a major contributing factor to the unification of the bride. This truth points us back to the fact that leaning on judgement through stereotypes and racism is leaning on brokenness and goes against the Kingdom principles of love, equality and unity.
There is a need for man to receive the gifts of other cultures. I am not arguing for universalism, but instead for recognizing diversity as a great vehicle of receiving God-love. Even though the world clings to false idols, and tries hard to covet individuality as the primary gain of life, there is beauty to behold. The Father’s lens through which He sees His creation is much more vast than we could ever imagine. There is grace poured out for those who chase the hearts of nations. We are called to be known by our love. First, by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and second by loving our neighbors as ourselves. If we zoom out, instead of selfishly staring at only our own nation, we would recognize that boundary lines blur in the truth of Jesus. Denominations come together on the foundational truths of God’s love. We are building a house without walls.
The existence of stereotypes is a diversion meant to perpetually point us to blame others. So does racism, judgement and the other tools of the enemy. Man fears being vulnerable with things we don't understand. The gift of chasing vulnerability, or being open, honest and true, breaks down the barriers of hatred. If we actually opened up to ourselves and to others, we might begin to recognize our own brokenness as the leading problem in our lives, not other culture’s brokenness. Choosing not to experience something outside of yourself or your norm is pride. Saying you don’t know, or don’t understand is choosing ease and ignorance. I am not saying we all need to be knowledgeable about everything that is happening in the world, always. Some people are called to that life. What I am encouraging is that we allow our hearts to be open to tolerate indifference as we encounter the Father’s heart for people that are different from us!
At the end of the day, not all white people are white trash, not all black people are thugs, not all asian people are geniuses and not all hispanic people are illegal immigrants. There is more to an individual than what you can see. Next time you encounter someone different than you, stop and ask for the Father’s heart for them and encounter them as a creation not as an abomination. The truth is, we are all under the domain of one King. “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16