Monday, August 15, 2011

Beware of Stereotypes

A group of retired gentlemen from a former church I served met each morning at the local fast food restaurant for breakfast. One morning as they waited to order, a group of bikers entered the restaurant. As they looked back over their shoulder, they could see that the bikers were adorned with the usual leather and chains. Most had long hair, pierced ears and tattoos. The men expected the bikers and their lady friends to be loud and obnoxious, but they went ahead and purchased their usual breakfast, fully expecting that their normal peace and quiet would be lost for this morning.

As they moved toward their table, they walked past the bikers to their table. As they sat down, they glanced at the bikers. To their amazement, on the back of their leather vests was an emblem with the name of their group. Their name was “Bikers for Jesus”.

The men were embarrassed because they had made wrong assumptions based on their stereotype of individuals who belonged to a motorcycle group. After several minutes, one of the men went over to the bikers and began to strike up a conversation. He discovered that the group was in town for a rally that was being held nearby. He said that he and his friends attempted to go to several rallies each year. Their purposes for attending were twofold. First, they enjoyed the camaraderie of their fellow bikers. Second, it gave them an opportunity to share Christ with other bikers.

After several minutes, the bikers crawled on their machines and roared out of the parking lot. The regular customers were left to discuss how wrong they had been about these strangers on motorcycles. It left them feeling guilty because they knew they weren’t nearly as bold in their witness to their friends as these bikers were to their friends.

This experience taught these men a valuable lesson. They learned that it doesn’t pay to judge a man or woman by an arbitrary stereotype developed through misinformation and prejudice. This is a lesson we all need to learn. The world would be a better place if we would trash all of our stereotypes and, if we are going to judge at all, we would judge each person individually and not by predetermined ideas. If we would allow experience and relationship to determine our opinions, we may make new friends that we never thought we would have, and our lives would be the richer for it.

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