“Christian Privilege” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

Over time, words morph in their precise meaning and usage. We might observe such over the course of a lifetime, even seeing words take on an entirely different connotation.

It is interesting to see how the word “privilege” has morphed in the last decade.

The most basic meaning has to do with having an experience that is special or unique, like, “It was a great privilege to meet the Queen.”

Some time ago, the word began to be used of people who were elitist, especially economically. “People of privilege” were those who lived in that one wealthy section that most every town has – where wealth was accumulated, displayed, and passed down to next generations. So to have this sort of “privilege” was to have a descriptive identification that had a bit of a smear associated with it, sort of like being called a “spoiled brat.”

More recently, “privilege” has come into use in racial discussion, often in the context of identification as having “white privilege.”  This is confusing to many people, especially those who don’t really see themselves as coming from especially unique or affluent backgrounds. But the word is still directed at a wide swath of white culture, in that this racial identification gave people a head start privilege in every way – especially true in what was handed down over generations of American history and the opportunities presented.

Whereas this “white privilege” designation can be unfairly overplayed and too broadly applied, it is true that many of the historically predominant race in this country are oblivious to the abundance of their blessings, remaining also detached from the complications of being generationally a minority.

I think it is a general truth that most people underestimate their blessings and their privilege. This is especially true when one has grown up around abundance that was not personally earned, but rather inherited in the pervasive environment. Even people who have known a poorer time of life may tend to forget the full extent of the good fortune currently experienced.

As Paul opens his letter to the Corinthians, he reminds his readers of their privilege, while also reminding them of the grace through which this abundance has come to them. The Corinthians were really blessed in a big way, particularly in light of the darkness of the surrounding culture; they were a totally new and different people as a result of being called out of the world by God’s grace. The word for “church” (ekklesia) means to be “called out” … referencing a group of people who are called out to be together.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 … Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Did you see the two components in this opening greeting?  Paul is telling them that they are richly blessed in wonderful ways, while reminding them also that this is the wonderful gift of what Christ has done for them and given to them. Yes, it is great stuff with a wonderful future, but it is all by the initiative of God. He is telling them that they are people of privilege.

And yes, we too are people of privilege, coming from God’s grace. It is Christian privilege. It should be something of pleasure in which we revel, yet also fully with the knowledge that is has been a great gift. There should be no pride in it, rather, great humility and a sense of gratitude. Beyond that, it gives us no high ground of judgment, that is, beyond a high understanding of truth. Yet that also should lead us to share the truth humbly with others. We’re merely beggars who were granted knowledge of an unlimited source of food; and now we tell other beggars where it might be found.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

1 thought on ““Christian Privilege” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

  1. Randy, you wrote, “And yes, we too are people of privilege, coming from God’s grace. It is Christian privilege. It should be something of pleasure in which we revel, yet also fully with the knowledge that is has been a great gift. There should be no pride in it, rather, great humility and a sense of gratitude. Beyond that, it gives us no high ground of judgment, that is, beyond a high understanding of truth.”

    With me it also brings a sense of fear. To whom much is given, much is required. It is near impossible to have any grounds upon which to judge ourselves or others. We can see what people do to only some extent. Yet if our fellow Christians are doing good, but not bragging about, perhaps not even letting their left hand know what the right hand is doing … how can we even get an inkling of the dedication that others have?

    God has sent a very high standard of conduct for us … and without being judgmental perhaps we are either unaware of how high it is … or rather God may not want to distract us with things that aren’t really in our power to do anything about.

    Consider this. Why is God going to bother us by having us worrying about things that aren’t in our element to fix?

    There is so much in the world that can use fixing. Not too long ago, the US congress decided to take up a cause …(I”ll probably just show my ignorance here) that dealt with prison reform issues.

    Nationally, we’ve had a war on drugs. Lots of good officers have a job going undercover and waiting to build a case and then when the evidence is solid that someone is dealing drugs they go in and arrest the people involved. Then they will monitor and see who steps in to fill that vacuum and build a case and then arrest that person.

    I”m just brainstorming here … but would it be better if someone just discreetly mentioned that they were monitoring the person and that they might soon get arrested if they continue down that road?

    There is a Proverb that says a wise king who sits on the throne to judge, scatters all evil with his eyes.

    Of course there are drawbacks to what I suggest, I’m not suggesting that my idea is always the best approach … but sometimes it should work.

    What would be the optimum ratio of warning people about drug use … both the health effects and the legal effects and … other intangible effects … that might relate to people finding themselves in compromising situations and not able to get police help when they need it balanced against a larger societal concern of finding the drug runners and putting them away because of the bad influence that they may bring to the table.

    To some extent the illegal drug trade isn’t driven by people with lot’s of great options in their life … some of their motivation is merely to make money to get by, perhaps support a family.

    And then there is something else I”m furious about, but few others seem to be. As a nation, by voting ourselves lower taxes and greater economic handouts in the form of many government subsidies, we are part of the system that is taking advantage of the next generation. We are taxing them without their representation.

    We steal from our grandchildren (or the next generation) and are NOT paying our own way. Unlike what Paul said about the parents should be storing up for their children and not the other way around we are stealing from our children.

    We are NOW engaging in slavery. It is the next generation that are our slaves.

    This isn’t a new idea I’m coming up with. Thomas Jefferson warned that in a democracy we as a people would be tempted to borrow money from the next generation. He wanted it enshrined in law that no generation should be permitted to borrow more than could be paid off in the same generation.

    So, slavery is going on now. Except our slaves haven’t been born. We can cry about abortion … but the children to come later may also wish they were never born.

    People can hardly understand the times in which we live. Political disagreements are now causing the government to shut down. The dispute right now over the wall is getting all the attention. The fact that we busted open a prior budget deal to start a “war on terror” and that this is the reason we need to keep passing resolutions to borrow more money … that is totally lost on us.

    We always wonder why the branches of government can’t work together to borrow more money. What we ought to be asking is why aren’t we paying our bills as we go as a nation to start with?

    Sure, politicians are quick to show imagery of people in wheelchairs being thrown off a cliff. Do they show images of children unborn being crushed under steamrollers? The crushing weight of debt that they will never get out from under?

    Is this an “off-topic” rant? or is this a vital moral issue that the church today is not uttering a peep about?

    We are quick to look for evidence some journalist in another country might have been killed. But the economic mess we are handing on to the next generation is going to cause unimaginable grief.

    There are indications that some people who hold a lot of power and wealth are looking out for themselves and are prepared to dodge the question of their own responsibility to the next generation by just wiping them out.. Debt is no longer the problem of the next generation.

    People are getting greedier and greedier. The disenchanted of today aren’t inspired by “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do you for your country.” No, we want more.

    Some bombs were dropped not too long ago in a foreign country and off-the-wall allegations by leaders in this country that this was the worst humanitarian crises since WWII were made.

    People in this country are sheep. The media we listen to are sheep, bought out by big corporations telling them what to say.

    How many Christians concern themselves with moral issues? Fears stoked about maybe a man who thinks he is a woman going through the “wrong” restroom door … that is the political discourse being festered on us. A 22 trillion dollar theft from the next generation … sounds like a great movie idea too … gets hardly a whisper. Guess what? It is a big problem.

    Analogy to show how bad things are? Pretend the Star Ship Enterprise is without power, all the crew members are drunk and the Enterprise is being sucked into a black hole while the drunk crew members are arguing furiously about who should be making a birthday cake for a couple of the members who are planning a wedding ceremony for themselves.

    And maybe add to the fact the whoever is in control of the Enterprise weapons systems keeps randomly firing the phasers at whoever comes around and shoots and threatens to shoot photon torpedoes.at other ships in the vicinity AND repeatedly breaks promises to the Klingons who might like to help out in exchange for some respect.

    I’m not sure my analogy even comes close to describing how bad things are for the US right now.

    Well, in a sense, my analogy is off. The US still has great power. A drunk person might stop drinking and start thinking straight. But can the US people start thinking straight? Will good thinking arise from academia? Will it arise from the media?

    Stay-tuned … (and what I am doing … writing here on a blog where perhaps 3 to 15 people are going to read what I write?) What is wrong with me?

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