Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's easy to let this day slip by without acknowledging the significance of the man we're celebrating. It's the first day off from school since the holidays, and it's a day that not everyone gets off from work. It's easy to view it as a day we can sleep in and let the kids hang out in their pajamas until noon and never really focus on the importance of what Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished. Prejudice is an ugly thing. It breeds hatred for no reason other than someone looks or acts differently than us. No child is born with prejudice in their hearts. It is a learned attitude. Whether kids learn if from their parents, their grandparents or someone else in their lives, kids who express prejudice toward others learned it from someone.
God isn't real happy when we judge others based on their looks. He made every person in the world, and He made each one of them in His image (Genesis 1:27). When we choose to judge someone based on the way they look, we're judging God. God never looks at the out trappings of beauty or skin color. He looks at our hearts.
1 Samuel 16:7 says "The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." God is concerned with the content of our hearts, not whether our skin is black, white or purple or whether our hair is straight curly or spiked.
Prejudice causes us to view others as less important and less valuable than ourselves. Prejudice has led to slavery. It was behind the massacre of 8 million Jews in World War II. It has been the reason for the slaughter of ethnic groups in Rwanda and Kosovo. It comes in all forms, against all sorts of people.
Take some time today to talk with your kids about prejudice and help them understand that God does not want us to judge others. Use these three quick ways to focus your kids' attention on the reason for the day of from school.
- Give your kids a box of 64 crayons. Tell them to draw a picture. Then take the box away and give them just one crayon and ask them to draw a picture. Compare the two pictures. Talk about the variety of colors and how the colorful picture is more interesting than the one that has just one color. Explain that God created variety when it comes to people. Ask your kids to name the ways that people are different from each other. Explain that God wants us to love each other because He loves us and thinks we are all valuable, no matter the color of our skin, our hair or how we sound when we talk.
- Take a walk outside. Ask your kids to find five different things God made while on your walk. Talk about how different all the things are that God made. Even trees and grass have different varieties, sizes and colors. Talk about how people are like that, too. God made all different varieties of people so we could all fill different roles in God's plan. He designed us for a reason, and He made each one of us a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). When we choose to make fun of someone or dislike someone because of the way they look, we're telling God that what He made is no good.
- Talk about Martin Luther King Jr. Find pictures on the Internet of "whites only" bathrooms and drinking fountains. Talk about what it would have been like to be a black person living in a society like that. Most of our kids don't comprehend how the world could have functioned like that. My youngest daughter probably has 10 different ethnicities in her classroom this year. She is always puzzled when I describe a world where black people couldn't do the same things as white people. Listen to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Talk about how difficult it would have been to stand up to the authorities. Talk with your kids about why it's important to speak up against injustice even when it is the unpopular thing to do.
God created a world with a huge variety of people. He didn't make one set of people more important than any other. He loves each and every one of us. Make sure you take some time today to focus on the beauty in all of the people God made.