We are now at the beginning of a new decade, the 2020s are upon us. I had hoped that in this modern era we live in people would be kinder to each other and old and ignorant prejudices would be a thing of the past. This is not the case as general intolerance and a failure to accept other people for who they are seems to be as prevalent as ever. There seems to have been deterioration in the way people with differing views or lifestyles are treated. We only need to look at the experiences of many of the candidates who took part in the recent General Election to know that intolerance and a failure to accept others for who they are and what they stand for can incite awful abuse and nastiness.
Sometimes people feel it’s OK, or even funny, to show prejudices and that there is nothing wrong in doing so. I was out on the evening of New Year’s Eve at the Ram’s Head in Lowton. There were four of us. Usually I am recognised by people locally as being the ‘Rector’ or the ‘vicar’. It takes too long sometimes to explain the role of a Team Rector, so I usually just chat for a few minutes and then people move on. This was no exception on New Year’s Eve as the pub was very busy and I was chatting to a few people. Things seemed to go quiet and I overheard someone from another group say, ‘They’re Scousers’, and gesticulated over to us. After another ten minutes or so we decided to leave and go back to the rectory. As we were leaving, a lady from this other group said in a rather accusatory tone, ‘I hope you haven’t stolen my coat’, accompanied by laughing from the other members of the group. Well, I’m not accustomed to stealing anyone’s coat, or anything else for that matter, so it was a bit of a surprise to be accused of stealing, even if it was said in a jocular way.
Someone from our group then made light of it and said, ‘I would have, but it looks like polyester, so I won’t bother’. We then exited before anything else was said, but it brought home to me that fact that people think it’s OK to show prejudice, or think they’re being funny and mean no harm, when in fact they are causing offence and re-enforcing false and misleading stereotypes. I lost count of the times when I was at Theological College when I walked into a room and people would say, ‘he’s from Liverpool so watch your hub caps’, it wasn’t funny the first time it was said, so it had worn very thin by the twentieth time. This is an example of minor prejudice, but some people have to put up with genuine hate crime on a daily basis. We hear stories of people not even able to walk down the street without being attacked for who they are, and instances of people being murdered for just being themselves.
We may think we are not causing harm by what we may say and do, but thoughtfulness goes a long way when dealing with other people. The question, ‘What would Jesus Do?’ is just as relevant now as it has always been. As Christians, we need to think about what Jesus would do, and try to encourage others to look beyond petty prejudices and see people in the light of love and acceptance.
We need to be able to recognise Jesus in those around us and be able to love as he loves us.
The world we live in can be a challenging place. People who show a lack of understanding and have a narrow-minded view of others can create prejudice, hatred and danger in our communities. We need to show love and acceptance to all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or creed and make our community an example of how we are called to treat others. We need to set an example to the world that love, not hate will be the conqueror, and that the love of God in Jesus can transform our world for the better. If we can do this we can bring barriers down, heal wounds, and enable all God’s people to live in love and peace with each other. We’re not going to heal the world’s ills by ourselves, but through prayer, encouragement and action we can make a start. Let’s work together to make this new decade a decade of hope not despair, of love not hatred and of acceptance and not prejudice.
Let’s work together for a furtherance of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Your friend and Team Rector,