Recently I read the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple—overturning their tables, scattering their money, driving away the sacrificial animals they were selling. That story gets you wondering: Why did Jesus react so strongly against these merchants?
Part of the answer to that question is found in understanding where this event takes place. It’s not just that it takes place in the temple; it takes place in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple. The Court of the Gentiles was the area of the temple in which those who were not Jewish could come close to God. But once the Court of the Gentiles became overrun by the tables of the moneychangers and the crates or pens of sacrificial animals, there was no room left for Gentiles to come near to God. Those who were looked upon as “outsiders” or “not like us” were effectively blocked from God. Since “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,” Jesus was not willing to put up with excluding anyone from the chance to draw near to God.
Since God so loves the world, God always perceives the tragedy of prejudice and always stands against it.
David Resch gave me permission to share his story of an encounter with severe prejudice while he was growing up during the Second World War:
“I was living with my grandparents in a German speaking community near Camby, Oregon. Most of the people in this small community were from the same region of Germany, and had come to the United States in the early 1800s, escaping religious persecution. The storekeepers spoke German, the newspaper was printed in German, and there was a German Reform Church which was the heart of this small community.
“Because of the war, this was a community that lived in fear. They feared that what had happened to the Japanese would happen to them. They feared that their property would be taken from them, and they would be put in relocation camps. Though…many from this community including my cousins were in uniform fighting against Hitler’s soldiers, they still feared that at any moment the officials would come, and take them away.
“One night there was some commotion outside our house. Some young men were gathered on our lawn. They were very loudly shouting degrading slurs about our heritage. ‘You filthy Nazis,’ ‘You Hitler-loving Huns,’ and much more was heard from these very drunk young men out for a night to frighten our family. My grandfather went to the bedroom and got his gun. My grandmother told him, ‘No, Joe, that is just what they want you to do. Stay inside with us.’
“The young men had brought gasoline with them and poured it on our lawn, then lit the gasoline, and it was burning in the crude shape of a swastika. Everyone was afraid that they would burn our barns and houses. My grandmother called the fire department, which responded in about 20 minutes, but it seemed like hours. As the fire trucks approached with their sirens howling, the young men ran away, and my grandparents left the house and extinguished the flames by the time the fire department got there….
“My grandfather said, ‘Before I could not understand how the people from my country could do these horrid acts to the Jews who were their neighbors, but tonight I better understand.’”
The inclination toward prejudice lives in all of us. We must strive against it.
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.