“Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters.
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.
Take a look at yourselves then you can look at others differently,
By puttin’ your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.”
Country music recording artist Donny Hathaway wrote that song “Put Your Hand in the Hand” in 1971. From Johnny Cash to Joan Baez, numerous singers covered the song which proved popular during the Jesus Movement that lingered in the early ’70s.
In the chorus noted above, the unintentional theologian Hathaway pointed to the healing that Jesus can bring to prejudiced hearts. The song is dated, but the message is timeless and timely. In fact, it will always be timely until the Lord returns.
Prejudice is defined as a preconceived opinion not based on reason or actual experience; a dislike, hostility, or unjust behavior deriving from unfounded opinions. By this definition, prejudice is a sin.
Growing up in the South, I saw the “colored only” signs, but had no clue what they meant. Upon hearing the explanation, I was hurt. I couldn’t believe it.
Entering first grade marked my first personal interaction with a child of African descent. When I later told my parents, I heard from them the kind of instruction whose principles were already resonating in my heart.
Countless times I sang these lyrics in Sunday school:
Red and Yellow, Black and White,
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
I suppose some today would be bothered that this song cited certain ethnic groups by a color. But I am sure my heart was in the right place when I sang it.
Another part of my childhood was memorizing the Golden Rule — as it is known — from the words of Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Luke 6.31. That same teaching from Jesus is cited in Matthew 7.12.
Jesus was asked which was the greatest of the 10 Commandments, and he summarized them, too: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” Matthew 22:37-40 (NASB).
So what does all of this have to do with prejudice?
Simple. Parents who lay the proper foundation for their children from the teachings of Jesus do much to stave off prejudice. But ultimately, the choice to employ the Golden Rule is a personal one.
Sinful prejudice will always be a part of our global humanity. And although social efforts or government programs are laudable, they will never fully solve the problem of prejudice. The only effective remedy is not social nor governmental. The cure is personal, not corporate.
When answering the question about which is the greatest of the 10 Commandments, Jesus prioritized the whole of life when he said we should love God with heart, soul, and mind. Unless that happens first, then loving our neighbors biblically is impossible.
The idea, then, says the only way to eradicate prejudice from an individual’s heart is for that individual’s heart to love God. And that comes only through the transformational work of Jesus Christ. When love for God, as well as God’s love, pervades the heart, soul, and mind, then accepting others who are different morphs from the struggle of human effort into the spontaneous outflow of a healed spirit. Only then can God’s love be expressed as God commands it to be expressed: love your neighbor as yourself.
PRAYER: Help me remember that the only cure for interpersonal indifference is to first realize that my indifference toward you, God, must be settled through the message of forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ. Amen.