Excerpted from the NC Council of Churches Lenten Guide, “Love One Another: Reflections on Race, Power, and Privilege”
Philippians 3:17-20; 4:1
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Shortly after the New Year’s resolutions start to fade, many of us begin to consider what to give up for Lent. I’m no exception. Rarely have I done more than to think of all the unhealthy habits I need to change. Maybe I should give them up for…..Lent? Then I remember the oft quoted myth that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. I could squeeze in losing two unhealthy habits, again…..for Lent.
This year I am feeling the need for a more solemn self-examination. The season of Lent falls in the early months of what is already shaping up to be one of the most contentious years in the United States; at least in the lives of many of its citizens. Not in many people’s lifetimes has there been more divisiveness and outright aggression, even and sometimes especially, among the people of God. How do we, as citizens of Heaven, imitate the example of Jesus Christ in our response to the ever increasing divide among us here on earth? How do we counter the loud voices of the enemies of the cross?
This year I want to suggest that what we give up is something we may not recognize we have. I would propose during the days of Lent, we thoughtfully begin to identify our own privilege. What are those things that we can do more easily, not because we are especially talented or trained, but because of our citizenship, the color of our skin, the money in our pocket, our gender, our sexual orientation, or because the space we occupy is accepting of our actions and desires? What if we walked out of the door each day for 40 days, recognizing the things we can do without thought that someone else must do in secret or not at all? What if we left those privileges at the door and made a conscious effort to experience as closely as we can, walking in someone else’s shoes?
Would we walk into our usual first stop of the morning, a good feeling fair-trade coffee shop without non-essential funds? Or we have money but could we use the restroom as a transgender child of God without confusion and possible condemnation when the choices are “Men” or “Women.” Once we are open to consciously putting ourselves into situations that are at best, uncomfortable for others, it becomes difficult to deny that most of us wear at least a few layers of privilege.
In this time of reflection and self-examination, may we acknowledge the disparities that exist among us. May we feel as deeply as Paul who as described by St. John Crystostom “weeps for those at whom others laugh; so true is his sympathy, so deep his care for all men.”
Prayer: Dear Lord of all creation, open our eyes and hearts to the very real struggles of our fellow man. Remind all of us who claim our citizenship in Heaven that in your eyes, and in our eventual home, nothing divides us. Amen.