Give up stereotypes for Lent

Image result for stereotype image

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

{Philippians 2.5-11, NRSV}

With hate crimes on the rise again and The Benefits of Racism receiving the most views in recent weeks on this site, which I don’t find to be coincidental, I feel it necessary to issue another option during this Lenten season.  Perhaps, we don’t need to give up chocolate or social media but something that carries more weight and that distracts us far more than we are willing to admit.  Why don’t we give up our stereotypes?

Turning over our plate or turning off our phone is inconsequential if we cannot stomach the presence of persons from other cultures.

A stereotype has been defined as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  The field of sociology offers a more in depth description: “A stereotype is a rigid, oversimplified, often exaggerated belief that is applied both to an entire social category of people and to each individual within it. Stereotypes form the basis for prejudice, which in turn is used to justify discrimination and attitudes.”  It is important to note that a stereotype is rigid.  It is a mode of thinking that is fixed and will not likely budge.  There is no wiggle room so even if we see persons that would challenge our stereotype of their cultural group, we feel the need to hold firm and fast to this rule.

We would rather view persons who do not fit neatly into our stereotypical slots as an anomaly than reconsider our position.  They become tokens.

But, then there is Christ, who came to earth with nothing of himself.  Empty, he gives up who is so that we might accept who we are in him.  It is an amazing display of humility.  Because if anyone had a reason to be full of himself, it is Christ.  If anyone was in a position to look down his nose at others, it is the spotless Lamb.  If there were one who could throw his weight around, who could travel with an entourage of angels, who could prove himself as more than the carpenter’s son, it is Jesus.  If there was a reason to hold a grudge, he had one.  Yet, pinned to a cross, Jesus chooses to forgive.  And if there is one who is really a know- it- all and who could have stereotyped us all as nothing more than sinners, it is Christ.

Jesus calls us siblings instead, brothers and sisters who are related by his blood (Hebrews 2.10-13).

We still have a few more weeks to go and this would not deter us from Christ’s journey to the cross.  It might lengthen our timeline, however.  But, what better display of humility than to let go of our prideful assumptions, our racialized privileges, our traditional axes to grind, our go to chips on our shoulders and ready- made grudges?  What better way to practice the ministry of reconciliation than to have a relationship with a real person rather than a historical assumption passed down to us?

Give those stereotypical caricatures, expectations and relationships back to history and give it up for Lent… and perhaps for life.  And in so doing, break the mold and the pattern, participating in the new life that Christ’s stretched his arms out on a cross to give us.  This is my prayer.

 

 

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