@johnvinod | March 17, 2021
On March 16th, in a racially charged hate crime, several Asian women were shot dead by a young white man in a shooting spree at massage parlors in Georgia, USA. This is just one of the numerous incidents during a recent spike in the racist anti-Asian hate crimes in the USA and Canada during the pandemic. This leads me to reflect on how did Jesus deal with his privilege and race.
Did Jesus Christ acknowledge that these issues existed during his time? Was he privileged? What did he do with his privileged position, power, and authority? What can we learn from Jesus’ life and mission today, especially during this Lenten season? In the past few days, we have been reflecting on Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. The question for me is: why did he go through this experience? Was there no other way to save his Jewish people and then the rest of humanity?
Jesus Christ was indeed privileged in more than ways than one. First, he was divine. Even when he took flesh like you and me, he was still divine. That is why he could do those miracles, signs, and wonders. That is why he was able to overcome death through his resurrection. Jesus Christ was also privileged to be born in a Jewish family as a male. He understood he was a privileged Jewish man, and it showed through some of his sayings and views toward other people groups.
However, the question is: What did Jesus do with his privileged position? First, the Bible tells us that he humbled himself to the point of suffering in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil. The book of Hebrews reminds us what this means for us who may be bewildered by the racially prejudiced acts and hatred of some privileged Christians. If you are at a point that continuing to follow Jesus seems unbearable, listen to this encouragement from Jesus’ wilderness:
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 12-16 ESV).
Second, the Apostle Paul writes that Jesus emptied himself and his privileged position and status. He laid aside his glory and the privileges that come with being God.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 4: 3-8 ESV).
Friends, we are all privileged in one or the other area of our life. It could be the pigment of our skin, family, upbringing, education, language skills, or something else. Instead of denying bigotry and denying the inherent privileges and certain systems that help us maintain our privileges; as the followers of Christ, we must ask ourselves: Are we following Christ and his example? Are we willing to humble ourselves to the extent of laying aside our privileges and make way for non-privileged people?
Permit Jesus, who suffered in the wilderness and on the cross, confront and challenge us today. May we acknowledge and use our privilege, as children of God, in making our world more acceptable and livable for others who do not look like us. May we use our privilege to walk alongside the people from a different ethnic group than our own because that is the way to demonstrate that we follow Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.