It is fashionable to call Christians bigots because they stand opposed to the prevailing sexual ethics and seek to point people towards a better narrative.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Is Jesus obstinately or intolerantly devoted to His own opinions? Did He treat members of other racial or ethnic groups with hatred and intolerance? [1]

Jesus was firm and uncompromising in His teaching

He certainly offended particular groups of people, which resulted in extensive, strong and ultimately violent reactions to His teaching. His words so angered the religious leaders of His day that they lied to ensure His execution. It cost Him His life.

Many times in answer to questions, Jesus made it clear that He held firm and uncompromising views about the way in which people should live. When asked about paying taxes to Caesar (the Roman ruler of the occupying force), Jesus used the inscription on the coins to confirm they certainly should honour Caesar by paying their taxes. This was an unpopular view with the Jewish population.

When asked a trick question about divorce by the Pharisees [2], Jesus explained that marriage was God’s plan from the beginning and then said ‘what God has joined together let not man separate’. This was not an answer that appealed either to His hearers, or appeals to the liberal majority of our day. But Jesus knew that it wouldn’t get applause when He said it. He wasn’t trying to be a crowd pleaser.

When He was asked about the way to heaven – no one was clearer than Jesus that there was only one way. He explained there were two possible routes that people follow. One is a broad, easy path that most people are on, but He explained that there was also a narrow way, which was through Him, the Son of the living God. Jesus called Himself “the way and the truth and the life” [3]. Only those trusting in God’s Son would be saved. His hearers knew what He meant. Jesus did not flinch from telling the truth.

His views were clear and unpopular and for many unacceptable. But was He a man who expressed hatred or prejudice?

He rejected ethnic and cultural norms

When Jesus met a woman from an ethnic group despised by the Jews, drawing water from a well, what did Jesus do? He sat down next to her and spoke with her and offered to transform her life by giving her the living water; spiritual nourishment which would satisfy her deepest longings. She was very surprised that He spoke with her. The historical friction between Jews and Samaritans was well known, as she reminded Him. His disciples were amazed that He was chatting to someone loathed by their people. Jesus was plainly showing that He did not despise traditional racial enemies [4].

One of the most famous parables of Jesus, tells the story of a caring Samaritan man who responded to the needs of an injured Jew left helpless by the roadside [Luke 10 v25-37]. The man had been ignored by the religious Jews who had passed him by. The uncomfortable gospel of Jesus challenged the racial prejudice of His day.

Culturally the most hated group were those who collaborated with the occupying Roman rulers and were prepared to grow rich at the expense of their fellow countrymen. The tax collectors were hated not only for their politics, but also for their methods. They added extra on to the tax bill for themselves. Zacchaeus was a despised tax collector. Jesus saw him hiding away in the crowd and called him forward to tell him that He was actually not only willing to meet him, but intended to go to his home and spend time with him. Jesus aligned Himself with the despised and rejected. He challenged the cultural and social norms of His time.

Even more risky was the time He accepted the gift of foot washing from a woman working in the sex industry. Did He not know the kind of person who was touching Him? Of course He did. He had clearly stated His aim of coming to reach sinners, the rejects of society and the outcasts.

He risked not trolling, but trial

Without the anonymity of social media, Jesus went head to head with the religious leaders of His day in full public view and challenged the rules and regulations enforced by them. Jesus said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23v27). They imposed oppressive rules on the poor and needy and made themselves look good in the process. Obviously the ‘virtue signalling’ they knew about was promoting their own specious virtue.

The Pharisees were offended by Jesus because His disciples did not wash their hands before eating [5]. But Jesus went on to outline the way in which they observed the outward, while neglecting the real inner spirituality that God required. He was so direct that the Pharisees were offended [6].

So He offended and insulted. Did that make Him a ‘bigot’?

Was it hatred and prejudice that caused Jesus to warn them of their need to live in the right way and avoid eternal judgment and final separation from an all wise and loving God? Or was it an act of mercy to prevent them heading into disaster? If you were checking your phone and walking along just about to step into the path of a fast moving vehicle, would a hand put out to stop you be an assault or an act of kindness?

As ‘the truth’, Jesus not only expressed truth but embodied it. Truth can be painful when it conflicts with our own desires. It can cause offence, but has no hate in it, only great love. He actually laid down His life for those He insulted and who were determined to silence Him.

Disagreeing is not bigotry

Maybe if you are accused of bigotry, check whether they really mean that you don’t agree with them. Everyone has a right to express an opinion, but we must speak truth with gentleness and respect. If you are accused of being a bigot because you speak truth, remember that Jesus was similarly accused. He judged sinful behaviour, but He never showed hatred to people. He provided a way for people to be forgiven and receive eternal life by the sacrifice of His own life through death on the cross.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

  1. Bigot (definition): https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/bigoted
  2. Matthew 19v3: ‘And Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”’
  3. John 14v6: ‘Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  4. John 4v9: ‘The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)’
  5. Matthew 15v2: ‘“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”’
  6. Matthew 15v12: ‘Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”’