Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 88; 148, Esther 8:1-8, 15-17, Acts 19:21-41, 4:31-37
A pack of foreigners and their radical leader – well known for recruiting people to his strange and potentially dangerous religion – wander into town. Locals worry these men will change the character – perhaps the very foundation – of their society. Merchants are projecting exactly how the influence of these aliens will negatively impact local jobs, revenue, and tourism. First there are angry murmurs, then protests about this evil religion, then angry mobs ready to forcibly evict these strangers, though doing so means sacrificing civil rights on the altar of security.
You know who we’re talking about.
That’s right – Paul and his merry band of Christians wandering into Ephesus. The Greek city was famous for its grand temple to Artemis. Artisans there sold a lot – a lot – of silver shrines and other souvenirs to pilgrims and tourists. They were worried Christianity was going to be bad for business, so they nearly started a riot to drive Paul and his companions out of town. The local authorities talked some sense into them and explained the courts were available but there wasn’t any justification for charges let alone a riot. There aren’t many stories older than the one about people who hold privilege rationalizing their hostilities toward people who don’t.
Christians might be tempted to look at this story and say: “But… those Ephesians have nothing to do with me; their religion was wrong and ours is the right one. Those Christians weren’t actually dangerous.” Nope. Like it or not, Western Christianity is compromised by privilege, because every group that rises to power eventually believes both that it deserves to be at the top and that sharing said privilege is a threat to its security.
Remember when Jesus said: “Blessed are you who value safety above mercy?” Of course not, because he actually said: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Real faith offers love, mercy, and forgiveness because Jesus has offered them to us. It’s hard for the last to be first if we insist on starting from the top.
Comfort: When we feel threatened, Jesus is still beside us.
Challenge: Read this article on 30+ Examples of Christian Privilege.
Prayer: God of mercy, teach me to be merciful. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been confronted by your own privilege?
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