Why I’m confronting my prejudice for my family’s sake

Why I’m confronting my prejudice for my family’s sake

Yes, I understand that there are a million types of mushrooms, and butterflies, and daisies; and I think it’s wonderful that everyone has a unique thumb print, but do I feel the same delight in diversity that God feels when He sees every individual human being; unique in our struggles and our pain, unique in our joys and our delights?

Common Ground Church is in the throws of exploring the dangerous and yet utterly indispensable theme of diversity: why it matters to God and why it should matter to us.

Over the last few weeks, as the elders have been talking about this series, and trying to get to some of the underlying issues behind the lack of diversity in so many of our lives, I have come to see just how deep-seated and insidious is the prejudice that lies in my heart.

Would I consider myself a racist? Would I consider myself condescending towards those different from myself? Would I consider myself disdainful towards those in a different socio-economic bracket, or who are from a different culture, or even a different religion. Of course not! And yet it’s possibly more true than I realise or want to admit.

I’m hoping to see this series shine a colossal searchlight into the depths of the depravity that is my heart.

Well did Jeremiah prophesy of my heart when he wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick.” (Jer. 17v9)

I’m hoping and praying that the truth of God’s Word which is living and active, will cut to my heart, and will do a deep surgery to remove the cancer of prejudice and arrogance from my heart.

I need God to change me for my family’s sake.

My two girls cannot afford to grow up with an arrogant and contemptuous father; even if that contempt in my heart is hidden behind all the flowery language of gospel-centered-this and gospel-centered-that.

My girls and my wife cannot afford it and neither do they deserve it. My family deserve a husband and a father who has met with God, and has come out different. My family need a husband and father who help them see and experience and love the diversity of God.

I hope to change for Christ’s glory sake.

I know that sounds just as flowery as ‘gospel-centered-diversity’ – but I hope to glorify Christ with my life. The ‘word and deed’ of my life preaches a message; it either tells the world that I believe Christ is who He said He was, or it tells the world that I don’t really believe it in the depths of my heart.

Jesus warns us about the dangers of denying Christ. Chances are that I’ll never deny Christ with the words of my mouth, but I could deny Christ with the meditation of my heart and my lifestyle. During this series on diversity, I hope that Christ will change me for His name sake.

I am starting to see that when God looks at the diversity of the human race it causes His heart to sing, because it is in a small way a reflection of the multifaceted nature and character of God Himself. I hope to catch just a moment of that song in His heart, and I’m hoping that song will take hold of my heart.

Finally, I hope to change for my own sake: for purely hedonistic reasons, I do not want to spend the rest of my life, living within the safe, predictable and yet boring bounds of homogeneity.

You might remember the one line from William Wallace in the classic film Braveheart; as Wallace is about to be killed for his antics as a revolutionary and freedom-fighter, his lover begs him to renounce his beliefs, and so escape death. In response he whispers “All men die, but not all men truly live.

Christ said He came to give us life, and life to the full (John 10.10). In a rainbow country like ours; part of that ‘fullness of life’ means embracing the wonder and the beauty of the diversity around us; loving and extending love to all whom God might place in our lives.

I hope and pray that at the end of this series I can honestly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a whole host of other Christ-followers and love them deeply and equally; whether they be multi-millionaires, or whether struggling to get by; whether they be Indian, Black, Coloured, or White.

As I listen to God speaking to me through the preaching, as I engage with my small group, and come before God in prayer, I am hoping that God will produce a profound change in me. I hope to be more gracious, more inclusive, less prejudicial, less opinionated, more welcoming, less fearful, more humble.

I want to become the fullness of all that God has planned for my life. I want to glorify His name and make much of Christ. I want to love my family by being the man God has called me to be. All that requires that I don’t just listen to another series on diversity and move on, but that I have a ‘burning bush’ experience with God; meeting Him face to face, and leaving a different man.

Here’s to living life to the full… for all of our sake.

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21 Comments on "Why I’m confronting my prejudice for my family’s sake"

  • I think its all good to talk about diversity making the circle bigger etc However I am not sure if this is lived out practically. Would you have lunch in a home in a shack in a township would you be willing to have that same family in your own home. These are issues I grapple with. How racist we are though is also not a black white issue, its a heart issue, how do I feel about Afrikaners Portuguese etc different cultures. And do we just connect with Christ followers because that is easy, regardless of race and class. Its connecting with the unlovely the unloveable not easy issues but at least its got us thinking about diversity. Often as a church member at CG I feel that the eldership are in a circle well that is not very penetrable. But thats just me. I have tried to make my circle bigger extending lunch invitations etc not always easily received.

    • admin says

      Hi Debbie, Thank you so much for being open about how this series is challenging you! We hope it will be a catalyst for many more conversations like this and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences and grow towards a greater understanding of God’s heart for diversity.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for your comment and for you honesty.
      For me, this series has really caused me to think about not just ‘diversity’ and ‘making the circle bigger’ – but more about the secret prejudice in my heart. But I think you’re absolutely right – these are issues of the heart more than ‘black and white’ issues that we can superficially just pay lip service to. It would be great to have an honest chat with your eldership team – I’m sure they would be very willing to listen.
      Thanks for your comments….

  • Roger Wood says

    Debbie, your not alone. In every church there are the ‘in groups’ and Common Ground is no different. I found that one has to keep pushing at the boundaries. In some cases that means that doors close more firmly but at other times people reach out in amazing ways. In some ways the fact that we are such an affluent church means that those of us who are not so well off feel we cant invite others because we can’t offer the same standards of meals or hospitality. We ourselves have therefore found it easier to reach out to others who are not in CG.

    I don’t think its a matter of increasing the circle by reaching others who are totally culturally diverse from ourselves but rather including those who we can relate to first. ie. Those we meet at the shopping centre or in our work place, those we exercise with or meet at the school gate. We can still increase the circle by our fringe contact with them.

    I recently visited The Powerhouse in Claremont. They work with street people. Not a group that I relate to easily and yet I found myself warming to them as I talked with them about their stories and backgrounds. In terms of bringing them into a church like CG it would be almost impossible.

    I suppose if we are honest in the way Kevin is we are all prejudice in some way. We so easily say, “I’m not prejudiced, I just struggle to get along with…….

    • admin says

      Hi Roger, Thanks for sharing your story about The Powerhouse and for your comment. Hopefully as we grapple with the topic in our own hearts the outward working of this will be a community that is more and more welcoming of all people, regardless of age, race, gender, culture, language, etc.

    • Hi Roger,

      Although none of us are getting this right (well, I’m not anyway) – its encouraging so see how this is a part of your current reality – including those ‘at the shopping centre, work place or school gate’. I know this is something close to your heart and I think many of us at CGC could learn a lot from you. So thank you.

      Thanks for engaging with the very simple article.

  • Margreet du Plessis says

    Thanks Kevin , for a very interesting theme ! As Debbie and Roger say , there is always a ‘in’ group . I agree with that . But I choose to be /not to be part of that group . It depends on our everyday ‘accommodation’ and behaviour towards other people, being them christians / non believers . It is often said that people can’t believe me/you are doing this or that , because ‘ if that is what church people do,I don’t want to be part of it’ .
    We have to live like people who believe in Christ – we have to shine in a world that is sometimes oh so dark – in such a way that people say ‘ what in the world has that guy that I am missing ?’
    Belonging to a congregation is very important ( I have learned in my life that those people become like family , sometimes even closer than family) , but how I walk and talk in everyday life , ( showing that I really , deeply believe that God is always with me and around me ) makes contact with other people ( christian or not) much easier .
    Then it doesn’t matter whether you have coffee in Kaelitsha or steak in Seapoint . What matters is that we get together and eat , pray and love as fellow – christians , glorifying God every moment , every day .

    • admin says

      Thanks for your comment Margreet! When God changes our hearts than the natural outflow of that should be love for all people, whether they’re Christ-followers or not. So encouraged to hear how you’re grappling with this :)

    • Hi Margreet;

      Sounds like you’ve really grappled with this subject. And I guess that’s the point isn’t it – that in society there is always an ‘in’ and a ‘not-so-in’ group. Jesus seemed to love hanging out with the ‘not-so-in’ crowd – and yet I find it so easy to move towards the ‘in’ crowd – and possibly treat the other group with suspicion. This series is seriously challenging that; and I’m hoping God will change some of that in me in the process.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment

  • Sean says

    Thanks for your words Roger. It is slightly conerning though that this is only being flagged as an issue now tho! If it is considered progressive to acknowledge racist tendencies then I think that black are right to not trust us especially when black people keep getting told get over apartheid…

    • admin says

      Hi Sean, Thanks for your comment! It’s important to note that prejudice isn’t just a race issue (although in our country that is where prejudice most often raises it’s ugly head and where repentance is most often needed) but that it’s ultimately a sin/heart issue and as such it’s going to be something we should be continually checking our hearts on and taking to God – 20 years into democracy, 40 years into democracy and beyond!

  • Roger Wood says

    Sean, I tend to agree with the Admin comment. It’s not just a race issue. Prejudice within the church can sometimes be sparked of by simply holding a different theological view. Sometimes its just pride that gets in the way and some feel superior to others because they have certain gifts. Ultimately its a matter of the heart that God alone can change. It was a problem that the early church faced and Paul had to remind them in Gal 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    Paul covers the three main areas of prejudice Race, Gender and Class.

    • Sean says

      A few things concern me.

      – the major form of prejudice that i could see mentioned in article was about race and ethnicity

      – race prejudice is far by far the most important issue to deal with in a south african context.esp in cape town where there are such clear distinctions between different racial groups.

      – if we deal with the most difficult then all the others will be easy

      – the way the article is written makes it sound like it is a new discovery.
      – surely we should be so much further along the way?
      – the catholic church school for example that i went to welcomed the first black student in 1976.

      – the most important thing to be considered is not me or my family but the person being prejudiced! Otherwise we turn love into a self centered thing.
      – sin is not merely a thing of the heart. It starts there but has public manifestations that impact other people. These have specific applications in the public space. I was hoping that some of these would have been covered in the article.

      • Hey Sean,

        Great to see how passionate you feel about this topic – and you’ve probably thought about it far more than I have; hence why some of these thoughts may seem ‘new’ to me. I guess I’m realising that there is a lot more prejudice inside of me than meets the eye – and thats disconcerting. And to be honest, I don’t think ‘race’ or racism is necessary the biggest of the most important issue. I agree with you that when we deal with the sin and the heart – it should have all sorts of ramifications for our lives.
        Some of the areas of prejudice I’m grappling with include socio-economic diversity, people with diverse sexual-orientation, classism; what about other religions? What about sexism?
        Its easy to say “I’m not racist” because I have friends of different colour or I treat people of diverse ethnicities equally; but what is our attitude towards the gay community or Muslims, or Catholics or wild Pentecostals? Can I treat those people with dignity and respect; even if I disagree on some matters of worldview?

        So I think we are more ‘along the road’ with some obvious things; but as I’ve grappled with this subject over the last few weeks, I’ve been confronted with the prejudice in my heart in less obvious areas.

        Last thoughts: I’m not exactly sure what the applications are. I’m nervous about saying ‘I’m now going do this or that’. What I am doing is asking God to humble me, to remove any underlying beliefs of superiority, I’m trying to intentionally see the Imago Dei in people that I meet; not matter who they are. But really I’m hoping the change is going to be from inside-out; and hoping that those around me will see the difference God is made in my life.

        Does that make any sense whatsoever?

        • Sean says

          Hi Kevin

          I completely agree that there are other significant issues eg homosexuality.

          My reason for saying racism is because

          1. Cape Town is a city designed to separate people. Spefically in order to contain riots from the past- Eg the m5 and m3 and train tracks are clear separators! You shape a city and then a city shapes you!
          2. I actually know white people who dont like driving on the m5.
          3. These divides are so entrenched in our minds that we dont even notice them any more.
          4. What would happen if more black or muslim people for that matter wanted to move into the southern suburbs? Not a small bit of concern!!
          5. I think personally that these infractructural divides need to be changed to create a more free flow of movement between areas in cape town. Mixing with people in natural environments is what is needed. At the moment white people go to black areas as saviours to help!
          6. We have to move beyond the personal matters of the heart. Our hearts change through action. Isnt that the acid test for the secrets of the heart
          7. We focus too much on ourselves and less on what black people think! A recent poll shows a growing distrust of white people

          • You make some good points.
            You also make some big generalisations.

            So what are you going to do about the issues you raised?

          • Sean says

            Hi Kevin

            Calling something a generalisation and not saying what it is? Eek!!

            Not sure why you ask ‘what i am doing’!
            But anyway here are some thing i have done…

            I decided that i could not live in this country and not get involved!

            I worked full time at an organisation called uturn for 5 years trying to help rehabilitate homeless people off the street. Running soup kitchens IT training second hand clothing, managing volunteers and general engagement in issues of all sorts etc Started learning to speak xhosa and hoping to pick that again.
            Ive taken a bit of break from that and looking to focus on more areas through business development etc my work takes me to some diverse places. Im in the middle east at the moment!

            From a social point of view i try and involve myself in activities where there different types of people. Like doing latin dancing. A very mixed multi cultural
            and multi enthnic environment.

            Its a long road and im not saying its easy! But we need to look beyond how we feel about something like prejudice and be more concerned about the person who is on the receiving end!
            But let it be genuine!

          • OK, thanks Sean.

          • Sean says

            Haha thats like an acknowledgement of receipt of a cv…

  • Tavonga says

    A little late to the party as I am researching racial reconciliation on the church in South Africa. I should let you know that as a brown person, I visited your church (Common Ground) for 8 weeks. There were no other people of colour who visited. Secondly, no one ever once greeted me – and not for a lack of trying to connect. Can you imagine coming to the house of God for 8 weeks in a row and not having a person engage you once? It’s a hostile environment for people of colour.

    You ask about practical steps: begin by considering that not all brown people are poor/(er than you); consider that brown people are human beings who do not exist as recipients of your charity. When you will let your daughter marry a person of colour without balking and not hide behind the excuse of ‘cultural differences’ as appropriate divisors – I will believe you are sincere.

    And it takes ACTING versus ‘waiting for God to change your heart’. Faith without actions is dead, my friend.

    • Kevin Murphy says

      Hi Tavonga,

      Thanks for your comment. Firstly, I’m really sorry to hear about your experience at church – a hostile environment to new people is not great for anybody, no matter what the colour of their skin, their culture, their language or the socio-economic status. So I’m really saddened to hear about your experience. I’m not sure which Common Ground congregation you went to, but on behalf of all the pastors at Common Ground I really do apologise for that experience.

      I am however glad to see that you and I are talking the exact same language – unless of course I’m misunderstanding you. Aren’t your suggestions exactly the point I was trying to make; that the prejudice in our hearts makes us jump to conclusions about the socio-ecomonic status of someone based on the colour of their skin. Or we think that certain people ‘need our charity’. That’s not because we don’t know how to behave its because we’re full of prejudice. That needs to change!

      I assume you’re not make the prejudicial assumption that I’m being insincere, nor assuming that I wouldn’t let a person of another race or culture be welcomed into our family.

      I think that prejudice, hatred, animosity, suspicion and intolerance are not things that we can gloss over, nor can we put on a brave face, not can we ‘ACT’ in the politically correct way, if nothing has changed deep inside. For countries which have experienced the evil of oppression, like we have, its going to take more than acting politically correct, saying the right things, or social engineering. Its going to require that in the deepest and most genuine places of our hearts – something has changed.

      That’s what you and I both need.

      So yes, faith without actions is dead; but actions without sincerity is mockery and hypocrisy. I’m asking God to change my heart, so that my actions will be genuine.

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