My opportunity to serve as a Juror might be coming to fruition. I have received notices over the years, but this current one is the first time I have made it to the first part of the process. I am still waiting to hear if I will be selected, but I was not eliminated in the first dismissals. I was impressed with a training video that we watched about our bias towards others. Your biases includes the ones that you are conscious of, like a bias about the fans of another sport team. It also included your unconscious bias towards people. These are biases that we hold but do not think about, like evaluating a person because of appearance, for instance. I was reminded that the Bible has much to say about how Jesus changes both our conscious and unconscious biases about others!
We see a classic illustration of both biases in action with the account in John 4 of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. It is the account of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman that comes to draw water at the town well where Jesus is resting. The account is a beautiful passage of Jesus’ concern for every human even when they have been labeled by culture.
The passage reveals the bias of Jesus’ disciples when they returned to find Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman. The two strikes that would have stood out and both reflect cultural bias. First, Jews did not interface with Samaritans. The woman also understood this bias. Samaritans were viewed by Jews as second-class citizens because they intermarried with non-Jews. Second, she was a woman, and men did not engage with unknown women. A third bias could have also been the woman’s lifestyle choices.
The passage reminds us that we can be like the disciples who would not have ministered to the woman because of their biases! Jesus however calls us to attempt to reach people like her and well at others like her. I need to clarify that there are situations and circumstances that require wisdom in those that we engage with. The point I am trying to make is that our biases, those that we know, conscious, and those that we don’t know, unconscious, keep us from ministering like Jesus.
The brother of Jesus addressed this barrier to following Jesus in the early church when he wrote, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”(James 2:1) He speaks of how they treat the nicely dressed, well off attender as a first class person while neglecting the less well-off visitor. This can take on many different forms.
We all have biases, those that we know and those that we don’t. The solution is to see people as the Lord sees them. He looks beyond the externals to see the heart. The Apostle John reminds us that Jesus died on the cross for every person. The Apostle Peter reminds us that the Gospel has changed our perspective as Jesus’ followers.
We all have biases. I challenge you to consider the missed ministry opportunities in your lives of sharing the Lord with a person like the woman at the well. This is one of the main reasons why Jesus has you here!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson