We were musing about how Jesus and his disciples were viewed in his day. If the authorities or religious leaders saw them walking down the street or hanging out on the corner, what would they have thought of them? It suddenly hit us. They would’ve been seen as troublemakers. And Jesus was their ringleader. Matthew, one of his followers, was a Jew who collected taxes for the Romans. In essence, he was seen as a lowlife traitor. Some disciples violently opposed Herod, the King. Others were seen as uneducated dropouts. They were regularly called gluttons, drunkards, and criminals. But more importantly, they were seen as a threat to the establishment, which meant the people in power and the upper classes didn’t want them in their neighborhoods or synagogues.
It’s no different today. If we see youths of a different race or culture dressed a certain way or wearing their hair differently, we often make immediate judgments about them. Usually negative ones. It might make us uncomfortable or even unfriendly toward them. It’s an unconscious bias we all have towards people who are different from us. We don’t know the individual, yet we’ve already labeled them.
Jesus didn’t judge others by their looks. He looked at their hearts. That meant reaching out to people who were outside his circle or society’s mainstream to get to know them individually. He was criticized, even mocked, for doing so, but he didn’t care because he loved all, even if it meant he would be wrongly judged for the friends he made and the company he kept.
One of the interesting things that happened while we were producing this was the casting. We wanted to use people that we thought would immediately elicit judgment from others. You’ll see that nobody is doing anything wrong or illegal. Maybe they’re running down an alley, skateboarding, hanging out on a corner, or hopping a fence, but viewers have been conditioned by society to make assumptions that they’re up to no good. Probably doing something illegal or criminal.
It was very intentional to point out the unconscious bias we all have and that we need to overcome if we’re going to build trust, love, and peace with each other.