Loyalty to God overcomes prejudice

... that men should do to you, do ye even so to them ...." Matthew 7:12

LOYALTY can be viewed as giving respect and support to a particular group. One gets the security of the group in exchange for loyalty. But loyalty to people, instead of to God, is often what incites prejudice. Loyalty to people and institutions often forces us to make a distinction that says, "Yes, I'm loyal to these people, but not to those; to this group, but not to that."

Loyalties have led people to try to stifle or exterminate members of other ethnic, social, or religious groups. Genocide is fueled by loyalties that say: "We're better than they are. They don't deserve to share in the good." Even people who don't actively participate in violent acts may unconsciously support those deeds by a kind of silent loyalty.

I have vivid childhood memories of remarks by adults around me who expressed various loyalties. I remember the slang terms used to describe different races and religions that had migrated to my area in search of opportunity. And I heard various groups categorized as greedy, ignorant, corrupt, lazy, and so forth. It seemed from these comments that being born into one group meant stature and respect, while being born into another group meant a person could never enjoy respect. From what I heard as a child, I picked up loyalties and prejudices.

I never gave these prejudices much thought until one day, many years later, when I was looking forward to working with someone whom I had grown to respect very much. I had admired this person for her tireless good work and her ability to express herself so beautifully in her published writings. We had never met or communicated except by writing. Still, I felt very close to her. Some weeks before our first meeting, I had a chance to see her on a television broadcast. Then some of my longburied prejudices emerged and spoiled my joy.

Seeing the woman and hearing her speak, I suddenly realized that she belonged to one of the groups of people that I had learned as a child to belittle. Here was someone whose works and strength of character I respected and admired deeply. I wanted very much to be like her. Yet there was a disdain welling up in me because of her appearance and how she spoke.

I saw that my prejudice had no divine authority, so I knew I could be healed.

What made me think this way? I wondered. Certainly it wasn't God's will that I carry such unkind thoughts of people. The Bible tells us God is Love. We are each God's honored offspring, reflecting His Love. God's love is impartial and indivisible. It couldn't possibly include gradations of respect. God never created some of His offspring less worthy of love than others; we are each precious to God.

With relief I saw that my prejudice had no divine will or authority behind it. So I knew I could be healed. As I prayed, I realized that the qualities I had originally found appealing in this woman were truly hers as the full and perfect reflection of God.

I saw that I needed a right sense of allegiance and respect—allegiance to God and to His creation. The one perfect example of this is Christ Jesus. Jesus knew with certainty that God was the real Father and Mother of everyone and the only Being worthy of allegiance.

Jesus' loyalty and respect were based in two rules. The first is the commandment "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut. 6:5). The second rule, as expressed in the book of Leviticus, is, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (19:18).

Christ Jesus loved his neighbor as himself—as God's son. He had a pure, spiritual understanding of how God values man as His full, perfect likeness, completely free of flaws. His loyalty allowed him to acknowledge only what God made. He rebuked all evil as baseless and not of God. This was how he honored God, with holy thought that brought healing and redemption to mankind.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah, or Christ, this way: "He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears" (11:3). Jesus himself said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

The woman whom I admired so much expressed grace and beauty in her writing. I soon learned to recognize that same loveliness in her spoken expression. I did that by praying to understand that grace and beauty are spiritual qualities that each individual expresses.

My prayer taught me something else about dealing with prejudice. When I see injustice being done to one group by another, I know now that I have two choices. I can feel outrage and choose a side to support. Or I can be loyal to God and judge righteously. I can know that there is one side, really; it's God's side, and we are all on that side. The spiritual reality of any situation is that there is no underdog, no trampled or abused child of God. Also, no one's real character includes the need to control or belittle. God is Love, and every individual of God's creating inherently knows and feels that love, always.

The one holy allegiance we all have is to the heart of God, divine Love, who values and protects all His children forever. Living up to our spiritual capacity to express the love of Love, which we each have within us, is the most powerfully supportive thing we can do for those who need relief from wrongs.

Defeat racial hatred with love
September 1, 1997

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