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Do you nurture in yourself some kind of prejudice? As W C Fields said: “I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.”
What is a prejudice? Prejudice, as the name implies, is the process of "pre-judging" something. It implies coming to a judgment on a subject, before learning where the preponderance of evidence actually lies, or forming a judgment without direct experience.

A dictionary defines prejudice as "an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts." Prejudice is a hostile opinion about some person or class of persons. Prejudice is socially learned and is usually grounded in misconception, misunderstanding, and inflexible generalizations.

There is an episode of the Gospels, where we find the people of a village who, because of their prejudice, reject the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He was intentionally going to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested and condemned to death. In order to arrive at Jerusalem, he had to cross the region of Samaria. Those who lived in that region were hostile to the Jews. As it was His custom, Jesus sent before him some of His disciples to arrange for Him a place to stay, but the villagers, learning that His destination was Jerusalem, refused to welcome Him.
Let’s read this story. “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. And he said: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.” (Luk 9:51-56)

Those Samaritans nurtured prejudice against the Jews, so they lost precious opportunities to know personally Jesus, the saviour of the world. Isn’t it tragic that prejudice, unfounded persuasions, often do hinder us from receiving that wonderful gift that only Jesus could give us?

Is it not true today, maybe even for you in this very moment? Maybe you also nurture wrong ideas about Jesus and these are a hindrance to your receiving His benefits? One day, Jesus, meeting a woman, equally prejudiced against Him, at a well, said: "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (John 4:10)

Maybe you nurture some kind of prejudice against Christians like me, talking to people about Christ. May be your harbour fears about what your life may become if you listen. But my only desire, though, is to share with others what I found in Jesus and encourage them to see for themselves if this is true or not. When that woman I mentioned before, went and told her friends about Jesus, they eventually replied, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world." (John 4:42)

In the text from Luke, nevertheless, prejudice is not only something Samaritans had, but also Jesus’ disciples! When the villagers, in fact, refused to welcome Jesus, Peter and John were indignant and they told Jesus: "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" I can understand a reaction like that because you get somewhat angry when you know who Jesus is and see people refusing to give Him the honour He deserves. Not only that: it does make you angry seeing people, because of their blindness, obstinacy and unbelief, refusing the only One who could give them healing, hope, peace with God an others - and eternal life. As you tell them about Jesus, out of love and care for them, they might laugh at you as it happened to the Apostle Paul in Athens. “…Now when they heard of [it] … some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this." It meant “Never more.”

Then we might think (we do not dare to say it) something like “Go to Hell…” Before such an attitude, Jesus says to us, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” Why?

In the first place, it is not up to us to send anyone to condemnation … or to have a vindictive spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:19-21) Do they reject Jesus? Do they reject you as His messenger? Well, God will judge them with a holy justice against the objective standards they want if they are so obstinate to prefer rebellion and sin to His offer of free grace in Christ. If we cannot persuade them – anyway it is not even our task to persuade anyone, but the Holy Spirit's task – we simply could, like Jesus and His disciples did in the story, go “to another village” hoping to find there more open people. This must not hinder us from doing them good anyway, and praying for them to come, one day, to their senses…

In the second place, we cannot “send them to hell,” because that is already their destination… whether they like it or not, as it was our own destination before Jesus reached out to us and we entrusted ourselves to Him. Jesus, in fact, said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18,19) We can only pray and persist in being a faithful witness to Jesus, hoping that they might come one day to Jesus with faith, before it will be too late for them.
It is so that Christians too should not have “prejudices”, that is, judging others before time.

No, prejudice is never right!

Paolo Castellina, 16/12/06.