But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matt 19:30).
A charity I am involved with has been exploring its equality and diversity policies and practices in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic events that have returned the movement to prominence in our newsfeeds and our conversations.
As part of this process our, mostly white, Board of Trustees have committed to educating ourselves on the subject of white privilege. For any white person, to learn that our lives are made easier through the oppression of others is unsettling, as a comfortable middle-class white woman I find it more than merely uncomfortable: it is profoundly disturbing.
So I have done what I always do when disturbed, I turn to scripture for comfort and guidance, but in this instance, I find that scripture is strangely silent, rather, it is the secular writings that move me to towards repentance and resolve.
It takes me a while to realise that I have been reading scripture from the wrong side. The Good News of Jesus is for the poor, the oppressed, the not-free, it is for those who mourn and grieve (Luke 4, Isaiah 61). The Bible is not silent on this issue but I have been made deaf by my many privileges. Scripture is saying things that are difficult for me to hear.
I consult the Bible to find out how to practice justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8) without suffering any personal loss, but like the rich young man of Matthew 19, I go away sad because the sacrifices I am being asked to make seem too great.
Secular writing on this subject allows me to better understand the situation and offers ways that I can support the movement with minimal discomfort. The Bible shows me that personal changes must be deep and comprehensive before we can expect to see any change in the system.
Giving up comfort and privilege is always painful for the individual, but for the organisation there are the added complications of legislation and accountability to external authorities. How does an established charity read and understand the Bible while maintaining its status and privileges, even as those it seeks to serve face discrimination and oppression? What would the future look like for the charity sector if we were to read scripture with hearts open to the changes we must make, and the things we must give up, both personally and collectively, in order to truly act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?
Written by: Catherine Beaumont: LCCT Project Manager