During World War II, stereotypes were used in posters, newsreels, and movies to demonize the enemy and motivate people to fight. It’s much easier to fight an enemy you hate. Nowadays, these images make us wince. We’re too enlightened to stereotype people.
Or are we? Most of us would be ashamed to admit we have stereotypes, but deep inside we classify people. Judge people. Treat people differently.
Skin color, body weight, age, style of clothing and hair, number of tattoos and piercings, educational level, political beliefs, religion, neighborhood of residence, national origin, profession, wealth or lack of wealth, what team they root for, musical preference and how loudly it’s played—these are all areas in which we classify people. We can’t help it.
But we can acknowledge it and refuse to let our internal stereotypes influence our external actions. In fact, we need to show extra mercy to people in our least favorite categories.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan often makes us uncomfortable, as it should. Jesus knows how our minds work—and how our hearts exclude. We need to search our hearts and love all people as God loves us.
[Jesus said,] “’Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man…?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-38).