So “marginalized” and “privileged” are heated words all tangled up in the morass of politics and social justice, but I want to address them in a spiritual way. There are a lot of epic fails going on here that have annoyed me no end.
The first annoyance is that Christians really are privileged, but because that word has been used as a weapon, as something shameful, many of us have failed to embrace it. But we ARE privileged, getting way more than we deserve, the recipients of unmerited favor.
That is true no matter who you are as Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Add in the happenstance of being born into this country, of having relatively decent parents, somewhat good health, and assorted creature comforts, and you have massive amounts of privilege.
When one is privileged, our job is now to reach out to the marginalized, to invite the least of these into our world. You too can get way more than you deserve, you too can become a part of the privileged. You too can become the recipients of great unmerited favor.
To simply dismiss the marginalized, to accuse them of the sin of envy is just all wrong-headed and shortsighted. You know why the slaves, servants, and beggars complain about my mistreatment and the chronic injustice of it all? Because they envy me. They’re all sinners. They’re just getting what they deserve.
And sadly that really is the mindset of so many people. We seem to forget that to whom much is given, much is expected. With privilege comes great responsibility and with responsibility comes the authority to do something about it.
The kingdom of heaven is always upwardly mobile, so Jesus reaches His hand out to us and invites us to sit at the table with a King. It is in a way, unfair, unjust, and getting way more than we deserve. It’s a privilege, a great honor, not an entitlement. We did not get there on our own merit.
So the Christian response in some circles has been to claim that they are actually the marginalized ones. Today, being a marginalized member of society carries some power with it, the power of victimization. I’m persecuted and oppressed too! Let me tell you, in the Western world, we got some major whining about first world problems going on. Persecution is when they throw you in jail and execute your children. Privilege is when you are attacked for refusing to bake a cake and you are privileged to have the opportunity to participate in protecting religious freedom.
The origins and root cause of feelings of injustice is often, I’m not getting what I deserve. There is huge inequality here. I do what the others do and yet I reap no harvest. This is so unfair, so unjust. Divine providence has dealt with me unfairly.
Most of the people in the US who perceive themselves as members of the marginalized, are actually suffering from spiritual wounds, poverty of spirit, things that cannot really be healed in the material world. You cannot pour enough money on these problems nor tear down enough statues. You cannot change enough laws.
You can however, invite them into the world of unmerited favor, invite them into getting way more than they deserve. In order to do that however, sometimes you have to confront the truth and the reality of how we may have been a stumbling block to others, collectively. God has us all under a covenant, kind of like a group or a tribe, and so trickle down authority says we are responsible for those who suffer within our clan, even when we ourselves may have had no hand in causing it.
Many people miss the truth to be found in Ezekiel 16:49-50, ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
It is for these reasons that I think it is so important, critical even, that Christians step into their privilege and embrace it. It doesn’t really matter who you are, standing in line at the food bank or living in your car, as Christians we are the privileged recipients of great unmerited favor, and not a marginalized or persecuted subgroup. It is when we can embrace our privilege that we begin to take up responsibility, and when we take up responsibility, we find the authority and power to reach out to others, to intercede and to cover for them, and to lift them up, too.
If instead we are competing to try to prove who is the most marginalized, who is the most unjustly persecuted, while vehemently denying our own privilege, feeling victimized by some intersectionality chart of nonsense, and trying to claim the victim card for ourselves, His authority cannot flow through us. We are standing on the garden hose from whence all blessings flow, the same hose He uses to water us down with His power and authority.
I actually am a street urchin or a wharf rat, who spent most of my early life without a home, trying to rescue a couple of really dysfunctional parents. I remember what it was like when someone first accused me of being “privileged,” of being one of the beautiful people, the bubble people of the churchian world, and of course by virtue, now a great oppressor. I laughed outright and I thought surely this woman can see me as I really am? But she could not, because the cover of the book today does not really tell the story within. But I heard her cry of injustice, her wail about being a forgotten daughter of Sodom, because it was once my cry, too.
I am privileged, I have to be, and rather than taking offense at that accusation, or denying it out of some sense of false humility, I have to step into it enthusiastically and embrace it. You cannot help people by becoming sick yourself, and you actually can’t spread the good news, spread the gospel, if you aren’t willing to say, I do know a better way, a vastly superior way, His way.
And I am privileged to know it and to know Him.