As fallible human beings, we sometimes can make assumptions about individuals or groups of people based on what we’ve been told or based on what we’ve seen that lead us to make generalizations regarding them. The Bible teaches us not to be respecters of persons (i.e. showing favoritism) or to dismiss, unjustly judge, or look down on people based on such assumptions. We learn this from accounts such as Rahab the Canaanite prostitute of Jericho who embraced Israel, Naaman the leprous Syrian military commander who despised Elisha’s instructions for healing but then changed his mind and got healed, from Peter who was commanded by God to visit Cornelius the Gentile and not to consider him unclean, and other situations.
Then a news story I read September 12 reminded me that in certain situations, stereotypes and stigmas that are proven truthful about certain people can serve as warnings to us so we can avoid their harmful actions. The story I’m referring to is British blogger Jolie King and her Australian boyfriend, Mark Firkin. The couple quit their jobs in Australia in 2017 to travel to parts of the world that they felt had been treated unfairly. They wished to “break down the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad rap in the media.” Nevertheless, their high hopes and dreams got a rude awakening in July when they used a drone to take photos in Iran outside of Tehran. News reports released on September 12 tell of their ordeal of being arrested in July for breaking Iran’s drone laws and the torturous interrogations and imprisonment they’ve suffered ever since. Iran has really turned out to be the axis of evil warned about by many politicians and agencies in the West and Middle East. It’s sad that this couple is now experiencing it up close and personal. I pray they will be released safely and soon.
We as Christians are taught in the Bible to heed godly red flags about certain people because God wished to preserve the lives of his people. In Isaiah, Babylon was accurately stereotyped and stigmatized in the Lord’s prophecies to Judah in Isaiah 13, 14, and 21. For some reason, King Hezekiah overlooked these warnings in Isaiah 39 when a delegation of Babylonians came to visit him under the false pretense they were concerned about his recent near-death sickness. Hezekiah was unwise enough to show them all of his classified sites and information. It resulted in a stiff rebuke from Isaiah and a prophecy that after Hezekiah’s reign, the Babylonians would use the information to destroy Judah. And they did just that.
Paul in the New Testament used stereotypes and stigmas to warn Titus in Titus 1 about the evil ways of the people of Crete. Titus was sent to Crete to strengthen the church there, but there were Cretians in the church who were set in their pagan mentality, so Paul pointed out to Titus that “[o]ne of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…” Paul wanted Titus to be aware of what he was up against so that he would see the importance of dealing with the Cretians using a loving firm hand and firm stance in the gospel to counteract their wicked ways for the security of the church.
Stereotypes and stigmas sometimes have a useful purpose, but we as Christians must exert godly wisdom to know what circumstances call for us to either heed stereotypes and stigmas or to toss them out altogether as useless to our endeavors.
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. Proverbs 22:3, 27:12