much of the theology that surrounds advocacy in the modern christian church seems to be heavily influenced by Christ’s conversation about the judgment found in Matthew 25:31-46. the premise is very simple: Christ sets up a dichotomy between two groups of individuals; group a (the sheep) are said to have clothed, bathed, fed, and helped Christ by helping those in need; group b (the goats) are said to not have done those things. the logical conclusion for many in the church today is this: the necessary response to our faith in Christ is advocacy for others; especially those on the marginalized fringes (i know it is a broad generalization but i stand firm to the veracity of the statement).
another way to put it is that advocacy for others is a good thing, especially when that advocacy is for those who are in the truest state of need.
as our cultural attention has shifted to trayvon and zimmerman it is hard to ignore the cries, pleas, and calls for justice. to be sure any life that is taken is a tragedy, and the young life that was snuffed our so quickly is no exception. regardless of reason, motive, or intent, george zimmerman acted in a way that is both terrifying and bewildering. as my long time friend and mentor, art gray, pointed out in a recent blog post (44 days to hope; before and beyond trayvon and zimmerman) the issue that cannot be forgotten is that justice is a “precious resource” and that it is our responsibility as people to ensure that the resource is not lost.
what art calls for is continued advocacy—beyond the trappings of race and racism, but never ignoring them. the heart of this issue is that we live in a culture that all at once teaches us to fight against tyranny and oppression yet facilitates inequality amongst people. watch this video and beyond the strong language you can see this reality in the words spoken by the young lady. read the comments and this strange dichotomy becomes manifest.
but at what cost does advocacy come?
personal reflection leading to identify more with the zimmermans of this world than the trayvons—the oppressors rather than the oppressed; the stark realization that time and effort spent is spent mainly on vapid endeavors and less on worthwhile causes; overwhelming guilt and crushing shame that comes with understanding selfishness and depravity; finally realizing that being a minority and being a victim are not the same thing1; or the simple revelation of hardness and darkness in the heart?
in truth that question is irrelevant. despite who you are, what race, what gender, what sexual preference, what anything; despite who you are Christ advocates for you. His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven at once defeated death, the enemy, and sin for all time. Christ, above all else, cared so deeply for you as an individual that he would lay down his life, willingly, so that you, i, we could find reconciliation with our creator, our God, and find eternal peace. His advocacy for us was final, unblemished, and absolute.
as Christ spoke about the final judgement to his disciples and those following, he foreshadowed the inevitable, he spoke about us. Christ told his disciples a paradox that still perplexes today: that it is by advocating for others, by standing in the gap, by reaching out and doing what is right, that we can reach out and touch a part of Him.
it is not important to understand the cost of advocacy. what is important is understanding the cost of living a life without it.
thank you art gray for living this out in your life. you have always inspired me to understand humanity by moving beyond race but never ignoring the realities of it. for that i am eternally grateful.