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There's no denying it -- prejudice exists.  It doesn't matter who we are, or what group we belong to, someone, somewhere will have unreasonable, preconceived ideas about us.  This is unfortunate, but what's even more unfortunate is, a lot of people have been harmed by prejudice.  Sometimes understandably, other times... not so much.  When I was young, I went through some circumstances that led me to believe that any girls who giggled or laughed for no apparent reason must be laughing at me.  Sounds absurd, right?  Well, it was; but to me it was real.  I believed it, and it helped to make me miserable.  However, the truth of the matter was, I was hurt, and because of this, I allowed myself to lose sight of reality.  When we lose sight of reality, the things we are willing to believe are astounding.  They generally start small, but can soon balloon out of control if left unchecked.  It's for this reason that some believe there are more than two genders.  It's why some believe a child is a child only if it's wanted, otherwise it's just a blob of tissue.  It's why some see racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever else, at every turn.  It's even why some Christians are convinced that those who believe differently than themselves aren't Christian, or that ministers who teach about tithing are greedy and only looking for a payday.  No, my fellow Christians, we too are not impervious to wayward thinking.  Yes, prejudice exists, and, at times, it can be damaging.  Nevertheless, don't allow it to lead you into a false reality, or cause you to respond with more prejudice.  The fact is, your own thinking can hold you in bondage far more effectively than any person can.  And if your thinking is based in a false reality, misery will be your lot in life.  Romans 8:31, Romans 12:2, Galatians 5:1

I talk to a lot of people, some of whom disagree with my beliefs and points of view.  And that's okay; we aren't all going to agree on everything all the time.  But, here's the real issue.  When people disagree, much of the time they do so without regard to any other point of view.  If something doesn't match what they believe, they simply disregard it.  And what's worse, some don't even know why; all they know is it's different than what they are used to.  This can be dangerous because this leads to judging according to our understanding of God's word rather than the word itself.  For example, once someone disagreed with a message I had written and quoted a couple of scriptures to make their point.  However, when they took a second look at them, they apparently realized that the passages they had quoted actually agreed with what I had said... so they deleted them.  In its place, they gave an explanation for their disagreement which was, and I quote, "It's complicated."  This is disingenuous at best, and willful ignorance at worst.  They saw that what I had written was scripturally sound, but they were too stubborn to consider a point of view different than what they were used to.  Don't become unteachable.  Don't become so closed off that you refuse to consider other points of view.  Remember, Israel become unteachable and God had to deal with them harshly because of it.  (See Isaiah 65)  Proverbs 12:15 (NIV) The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

In my walk through life, I've encountered those who, for one reason or another, always choose to see me in a negative light.  If they saw anything good in me, they would ignore it, or try to turn it into something negative.  Some even watched intently looking for reasons to accuse me, or to ridicule me.  Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is quickly becoming the norm for many, and we are abandoning time tested principles which promote peace and civility with one another.  Many feel justified in doing so since they believe they are standing for what is right, or that their side is the good side.  But we shouldn't be standing for what is right by doing what is wrong.  Don't follow those trying to lead you down this road -- choose better character.  If you wouldn't like someone doing it to you, then don't do it to someone else.  See people through God's eyes; we are all fearfully and wonderfully made -- made in the image of God no less.  Choose to judge rightly, and righteously, rather than according to an agenda.  The more angry and the more hardened we become, the less likely we will be able to see objectively, and the more likely we'll be harmed personally.  Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

As Christians, we tend to place a lot of emphasis on sin and adhering to certain accepted standards we believe define us as Christians.  However, too often, issues of character go unaddressed.  Some may believe sin and character issues are one in the same, but this isn't necessarily so.  For example, we could be a complete and total jerk, yet not commit a sin.  We could be rude, antagonistic, treat others with disregard, or be careless in the things we speak or do, and still never technically commit a sin.  In fact, some make liberal use of this believing it to be a kind of loophole for behaving badly, yet we still don't hear much about being a person of character.  Sin or not, these things and more aren't pleasing to God.  Not only that, but they will surely have a negative impact on us, our lives, and the world around us, even if we don't see the connection.  There are so many in the world who don't believe character matters, who believe they are somehow justified in doing whatever they choose, or who believe that the ends justify the means.  Don't take part in this.  Choose a better standard; have a spirit of excellence rather than merely trying to sidestep sin.  Be a blessing to God and to others by choosing to exemplify the character of God in your life.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Have you ever noticed how some people love giving advice?  I've personally encountered some who were so desperate to speak they literally could not wait for me to finish a single sentence before they began telling me all the things I should be doing.  But how can anyone speak to our situations in a beneficial manner without knowing the details of our situation, or without having the wisdom or experience to do so?  The answer is, they can't, and we should be careful with what they have to say.  We are flush with cheap advice and trite, feel-good sayings -- things that people didn't have to pay a price to obtain.  But true wisdom, and true understanding gained by experience is not always so easy to come by.  Be wise, and be discerning -- not everyone who dispenses advice has the depth of knowledge, or the clarity of sight to do so.  Remember, should we choose to follow their advice, it will be us who bears the consequences for doing so, not them.  And before you seek guidance from anyone else, seek it from God first.  May God bless you with the discernment to know what is right and what is wrong, and the wisdom to know what to receive and what to reject.  James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.


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