For the past three weeks we've been doing a sermon series on Amos, one of the lesser known or talked about prophets. To give the spark notes version, Amos was a small town shepherd who went into the metropolis cities and told all the rich Israelites that they were going to hell in a handbasket. To me, it is one of the great social justice manifestos ever written. Not only does it promote social justice and equality, but the more research and studying I did on it, the theme of privilege also came up. "Privilege." That's a loaded word these days. White privilege. Male privilege. Straight privilege. These are not terms that straight white males like myself are comfortable talking about. But we need to. Badly. Especially for those of us who have committed to following Jesus.
While I am not going to get into the evidence for these privileges in this post (the scholarship and evidence is out there and explains it better than I could as I am still learning), but what I am going to talk about is the importance of this for the Gospel. Unfortunately, the rhetoric of today has been telling us that this idea of "privilege" is a liberal agenda. It has become politicized and because of that many people in evangelical circles have turned their ears and even hearts off to this idea. What Christian leaders need to do is Gospel-ize this idea of privilege and shine a light on the dark corners of society. We cannot expect to be transformers of our world if we do not acknowledge the reality and brokenness of our world.
Why is privilege a Gospel issue?
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."-Galatians 3:28
We are either all equals or we aren't. Christians cannot claim something like #AllLivesMatter (even though, literally speaking, of course all lives matter), and see how our country as a whole does not believe #BlackLivesMatter when people of color are continually more and more likely to be killed and incarcerated.
The United Methodist mission statement is to "Make disciples for the transformation of the world." If we are to truly make disciples, that means we become equals. We are all equal at the foot of the cross. Therefore, when we see inequality across our world, we stand against it. We seek equality. We do not say to anybody that they are welcome to follow Jesus with us, but we're only going to allow you to be a partial member. If we desire to make disciples of all people--and all means all--then that means we do it as equals.
Amos came and told privileged Israelites that what they had done had oppressed people and has put them on the path toward destruction. Our social lives and the beliefs and paradigms we support, impact our spiritual lives. You can't separate your social beliefs from your spiritual beliefs. That's not how Jesus works. If that were the case, I think our churches would be a lot more filled than they already are. If you could follow Jesus without sacrificing anything, well, then more people would be doing it.
Personally, I'm not where I need to be yet. I still need to die to myself more. I still need to acknowledge and come to grips with my privilege more. Fortunately, there is grace. Loads of grace. But God's grace may not come unless I'm willing to accept it and what that means. If I'm not willing to carry my own cross and continually pour myself out in humility, then I'm not making room for God's grace to work. When we make room in our lives for God's grace to work, the end result of that is more of Him and less of me. That means owning and seeking to bring death to my privilege.
Privilege does not mean any of us are bad people because of our privilege. I am not a "bad person" because I happen to be male, white and straight. But It does mean that I have some inherent societal advantage that my LGBTQI, female and brothers and sisters of color do not. In order to become a full disciple to transform the world alongside them, that has to change.