Grace and Peace to you.
There were many lepers in Israel
in the time of the prophet Elisha,
and none of them was cleansed
except Naaman the Syrian.
The urge toward “us” and “them” is instinctive, as old as the split between neanderthals and homo sapiens. Religion is especially apt to be twisted into systems of privilege and exclusion. Such bias is built into our cultural, economic and political systems at the deepest level. Border walls, gated neighborhoods, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, voting rights, the idea of race or sexual identity, Indian Reservations, redlining, Jim Crow, nationalism, mass incerceration and so on— serve no purpose other than to define “us” and “them.”
But God has no favorites—or rather, there’s no one who isn’t God’s favorite. Jesus spends his ministry confronting systems of exclusion, bearing God’s grace especially to those who are systematically excluded by human injustice. “God is just as likely,” he says, “to choose a Syrian as an Israelite, because God includes everyone.” This enrages his privileged hearers: they try to throw him over the cliff. It doesn’t surprise him. Insiders are always threatened when you try to expand the circle.
There are always people who fall through the cracks. But the cracks are not there by accident. We who walk humbly with God are to love mercy and also to do justice: to reach out to those who fall through the cracks and also to fix the damn cracks. That will be hard for people who like the cracks that way.
Notice how privilege affects you and those around you— privilege granted some and not others because some are white or male, middle class, good looking, straight, healthy and so on. You can’t disavow your privilege; it’s given to you. But you can use it to confront and dismantle systems of exclusion.
What you do will likely anger someone. Reconciliation usually begins with the pain of seeing the truth. Trust the deeper process. Today be aware of your privilege and how you use it for the sake of God’s special love for those whom we leave out. After all, you, who do not “deserve” it, have been given infinite love and forgiveness and inclusion in God’s household. How can you not pass it on? Trust that even the pain is part of the healing.
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