Our Saviour was the greatest of all teachers. He was the outstanding spiritual instructor of all time, who knew truth and fearlessly taught it, regardless of the traditions and Scriptural interpretations that had been handed down from generation to generation since the days of Moses. Three years of teaching truth to the professed people of God aroused against Him such bitter opposition that He was crucified amid the scorn and jeers of Pharisees and scribes. They never convicted Christ of teaching contrary to the word of God. Their opposition to His teachings was always based on prejudice, fortified by tradition. They tenaciously held to the past. Their prejudice, not the word of God, was the barrier separating them from Christ and His teachings.
We may ask, What is prejudice? It is defined as "a judgment or opinion formed without due examination; . . . a mental decision based on other grounds than reason or justice; a premature opinion."—Standard Dictionary.
"A prejudice is an obstinate persuasion, for which we can assign no reason; for the moment a reason can be given, it ceases to be a prejudice."--Sharpe's Essays.
Prejudice excludes light, and like a cork in a bottle, neither receives nor gives. "Prejudices are a thick cloud on the face of reason." Few things narrow down the horizon of the mind like prejudice.
It was because Christ had an open mind to see, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that He imparted light and truth whenever He spoke. It was a searching question He put to mankind when He said, "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
We often apply this to seeing faults and failures in our fellows. May it not also be applied to the larger field of searching for truth? If we cork up our own minds with what we have, and neither seek nor admit anything contrary to what we now know, how shall we ever increase in the knowledge of truth? Truth never changes. We never abandon a truth because we have new light. Truth becomes clearer and clearer from study and research. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Prov. 4:18.
But if one holds that he has full knowledge, how can he ever grow? If the scientist says, "I now have absolute knowledge," he will cease to search for unseen truth in the physical realm. We can easily understand how some inventor might declare, "This machine is perfect. Neither I nor any other man can improve it; for it cannot be improved." Yet our patent offices are filled with new patents constantly improving the old. So, too, in the field of religion; but prejudice often closes the eyes to the true and fuller meaning of the Word.
Every Christian, and especially the ministry, ought ever to seek for advancing, increasing light on every point of faith. This does not mean that we shall denounce or reject former light; but rather, that our view of truth shall constantly enlarge till we see this or that more clearly and completely than before.
Once I looked into a series of spectroscopes, each containing radium, but so arranged that each succeeding spectroscope presented the radium in an intensified form. When I had finished the series, I began at the first again; but my vision had so improved that it seemed to me that what I now saw could not be that at which I had first looked. I saw such splendors, such waves of scintillating light, that it seemed strange that I had failed to see them when I looked the first time.
Thus it is with truth. We are to seek light and more light. We are to "search the Scriptures," ever with an open, inquiring mind. Thus we may increase in knowledge and wisdom, and grow into a fullness that can never be if we allow the mind to be hobbled by prejudice. Nor are we to deal so much with defining and removing other men's prejudices as we are to be sure that our own minds are free from every shackle that binds and cripples our growth and progress.
When Christ was teaching in the temple in Jerusalem, the people were divided, Some said, "He is a good man;" others said, "Nay; but He deceiveth the people." When the people heard His teachings, the opposition increased. Some said, "Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence He is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is." Here they set aside a long list of prophecies and the miracles of Christ out of mere prejudice against Him. On another occasion the Pharisees denied Christ out of sheer prejudice. They said, "We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is." Even the blind man who had been healed perceived their prejudice. "The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes."
Even Voltaire cried out against the corruptions and superstitions of Rome when he said, "Prejudice is the reason of fools." Prejudice colors the outlook on all new faiths and theories. It jaundices all it sees. "When the judgment is weak, the prejudice is strong."
"Some persons believe everything that their kindred, their parents, and their tutors believe. The veneration and the love which they have for their ancestors incline them to swallow down their opinions at once, without examining what truth or falsehood there is in them. Men take their principles by inheritance, and defend them as they would their estates, because they are born to them."—Watts.
Seldom are we convinced of our own prejudice by exposing that of others. Recriminations seldom help us to see our own prejudices. John Locke, speaking of how to get rid of prejudice, said:
"The only way to get rid of this ignorance and error out of the world, is for everyone to impartially examine himself. If others will not deal fairly with their own minds, does that make my errors truths, or ought it to make me in love with them, and unwilling to improve on myself? If others have cataracts on their eyes, should that hinder me from couching of mine as soon as I could? Every one declares against blindness, and yet who almost is not fond of that which dims his sight and keeps the clear light out of his mind which would lead him into truth and knowledge? False or doubtful positions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, keep those in the dark from truth who build on them. Such are usually the prejudices imbibed from education, party, reverence, fashion, interest, etc. This is the mote which everyone sees in his brother's eye, but never regards the beam in his own."
We can afford to go a long way to find truth. Every ray of light should be carefully cherished; the evidences of truth should be often examined, for like a genuine pearl the more it is polished, the more light it gives forth. When our assent goes beyond our evidence, prejudice may play a larger part in one's holdings than we are wont to believe. Most ministers have often seen many apparently honest persons so filled with prejudice against plain Biblical statements that their case seemed pitiful.
In searching for truth in God's word, we must seek for truth with an open mind. We ought to be hungry for truth all the time. It is when the appetite is keen that food has the best relish. But prejudice never whets the appetite for revealed light. It is a deadening opiate, bringing stagnation, and is a sure precursor of spiritual decay. Growth in grace must come from additional light, and a better and fuller understanding of revealed truth. Many times the beam in our own eye shuts out the light from heaven. It was so with the Pharisees and scribes and chief priests and rabbis in the days of Christ. The apostles and Paul found the same in their activities. Prejudice blinds the eyes, callouses the heart, and brings on spiritual apathy. Every growing preacher should put it out of his heart.