Have you ever thought about the way that we look at people? If we are truly honest with ourselves we make so many judgments about people simply based on the way they look. I know, you might be thinking, "I don't do that", but think about the last time you were in a restaurant or a coffee shop. Say someone walks in with sunglasses, long beard, leather vest, jeans, boot, and bandanna; who comes to mind? ....Biker right? What about a woman that walks in with her family and is wearing a hijab? Pretty easy one....Muslim woman. Once we've categorized, we can now begin (in our minds) to make certain distinctions about them based upon what we call stereotypes. Stereotypes are simply widely held but fixed and oversimplified images of a person or thing. This is something that we all do. Some more and some less, but we all do. We can't help it, because there is something in us that has to categorize people. The fact is, most people and situations are way too complex for stereotypes to ever be enough.
One of my favorite stories in scripture is in John 4, commonly known as the "woman at the well." Jesus interacts with a woman who has multiple stereotypes laid upon her. She's a woman, she's a Samaritan (hated by the Jews), she's an outcast from her own town, etc. What I love about Jesus' interaction with her is that even though he knows all these things, he blows right passed them, straight to her heart. He doesn't care about what people say, he cares about her. He wants to know her on a deep, personal level, and more importantly he wants her to know him on a deep, personal level. My prayer is that we stereotype like Jesus. We realize and understand the stereotypes that we have, but we blow right past them to the heart of the person. At the very least, we can be fully aware of our stereotypes and realize their inadequacy. May we be the people that get passed "issues" and stereotypes, and dive into the heart, depth, and complexities of life.