How Do We Judge Our Neighbors?

Last night for the second time, I watched the movie, “Life is Beautiful.” This powerful, tragic, and funny movie came out in 1998. Based in pre-war Italy, it heralds the beginning of the rise of Nazism and follows a man and his family to the end of the war. After seeing the movie last night and watching the morning news this morning, my thoughts turned to the idea of prejudice. The word means what it says, to pre-judge or make a decision without all the facts. The Random House College Dictionary defines it as “An unfavorable opinion or feeling made beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” I asked myself, How Do You Judge Your Neighbors? By neighbors, I mean other people in the world.

How do I and others judge people? Starbuck’s idea of “Race Together” and talking about racial prejudice during your morning coffee isn’t popular with many people, including me. That doesn’t keep me from looking deeper. My first thought, God made all of us, so we are each valuable people – a surface thought, but I believe it. What does it boil down to? In the movie, a rich woman talked about how much it costs to take care of the sick and elderly. To her, those people were just a nuisance. Theoretically, she forgot she may someday be elderly and possibly sick. Another scene showed a group of school children being told they are a superior race. The movie showed severe prejudice toward Jewish people. That prejudice seems to be raising it’s head again. Different areas of the world have different prejudices. In my opinion, all are wrong.

Let’s look at the reasons different races or even different people behave differently. First, we have to consider genetics. Some are born with the ability to learn quickly. Others have talent in sports or art or music. That is true of all races. Others, like the woman in the movie, look at socio-economic status. What people see as poor in America may seem rich in some parts of the world. I could bore you will all the variables, but I won’t. I believe there are two variables that are often over-looked in judging others, love and opportunity. Those who have grown up in a loving family, whether in a home or tent or even on the street, seem to handle life better. Also, those who have opportunity to follow their dreams seem to become more productive citizens. Maybe it isn’t race at all. Maybe we do need to look at each person as an individual.

In the Bible, 1 Samuel 16:6-7, Samuel sought God’s directions in anointing the chosen man as king, He saw David’s older brother, Eliab, and said, “‘Surely the Lord’s anointing is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

Let’s start the conversation – with or without coffee. What are your thoughts about prejudice and judging our neighbors, near and far? What are your ideas of ways we can all live together in peace?