“Listen, when I travel through the airport, they still pull me aside.” said my friend exasperatingly. Confused, I looked up at him, “Why? Is there something you need to tell me?” I cushioned with a smile. Laughing, he began to tell me…
“After 9/11 in the US, I could not travel through the airport without being pulled over. Because I look like I am from the Middle East, each time the officer would escort me to the back room. Today, to avoid this, I have to remember to add my Known Traveler Number in my travel reservation.” Amazed and gaping, I asked, “Well, didn’t they hear your accent? You sound like you are either American or Caribbean.” Smiling, he shook his head, “No. It didn’t matter what came out of my mouth. They assessed me based on my looks.”
What is Spiritual profiling?
Have you ever heard of the term spiritual profiling?
I heard a pastor use this term recently, and it brought to mind the story my friend had shared with me. Merriam-Webster defines profiling as “the act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendencies consumer profiling specifically: the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior racial profiling.”
Spiritual profiling is when we place persons into specific categories. Your automatic reaction may be, “Well, I don’t do this.” But, guess what… we all do.
A lovely, kind, gentle and sweet lady wearing conservative clothing: That is a Christian.
A disheveled, rugged and grimy young lady: That is not a Christian.
Not the right look. Nor the right skin color. Not the right accent. Nor the right clothes. Not the right car: Can’t be a member of our church.
You can add your own experience or knowledge here. Yes, that example that is in your mind right now as you read this.
I have had persons tell me, “Oh, you go to that Church? That church is only for rich people or hoity-toity Christians in the community.” I remember being shocked by hearing this the first time. I thought it was a church of loving people caring for others. But I had to be quiet because it is the same thoughts that filter through my mind when I think of the Jehovah’s Witness Christians, or the Seven Day Adventist Christians, or the Catholics.
We all, in some way, have been trained to profile Christians. The most targeted religion in the world is Christianity. We are continually profiled, and as a Christian, I am guilty of doing it myself.
But even more, concerning is that we also profile God. I highlighted for you in a blog post of a young man whose belief was putting God in a box. When we say only one group of people should spread the word of God, we have profiled God to say that in His capacity, He can only give blessings to X.
In Acts 10, God shared a vision with Peter. The lesson He was trying to teach Peter is that we are not to discriminate and profile people according to their nationality, looks, social standing, beliefs, etc.
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. – Acts 10:27-35
Jesus showed this lesson in so many ways in the Bible:
- His connection and conversation with a Samaritan woman (a nation despised amongst the Jews)
- The touching and healing of the sick and untouchables in that society of the day (i.e., lepers).
- His networking and staying with people who were not part of the status quo (i.e., tax collectors)
None of us are perfect. And it is so easy to fall into the trap of profiling others. Let us pray for the Lord to open our hearts and identify areas that we may be profiling and prohibiting the word of God to spread.
Prayer: Holy Father, thank you for this clarity that you have given me. Forgive me when I profile others and become the roadblock to the growth of your kingdom. Creator of all, you show no favoritism and seek for us to do the same. May the opening of our hearts and the message of the good news create the glory, as seen in Acts 10 for the furtherance of your Kingdom always. In Jesus’ name. Amen
May God’s grace, mercy, and love be with you.