If blessings upon birth were made into a global statistic I would be well and truly in the top category. Physically, I am among the least oppressed on earth at this time—I was born a white, middle-class, Christian, heterosexual, healthy, Kiwi male. As sad as it is, these categories are currently greater 'blessings' than others.
I am blessed
I have not grown up fearing for my safety because of the colour of my skin. I have not grown up wondering if there will be food on my plate tomorrow.
I have grown up in a society founded by my religion, often casting harsh judgement on others. I have slept soundly while my friends have anxiously tossed and turned with fears of how their loved ones and their society will persecute them because of their sexual orientation.
I have been blessed with a body and mind that does not 'disable' me in any way that others see fit to mock or worse. I was born into a country where free-choice is encouraged, among many other blessings, including being one of the most widely respected and tolerated countries on earth. And I was born with a set of genitalia that gave me greater opportunities, rights and respect than the alternative set.
These are not even close to the full sum of blessings I received at birth and beyond. But when the kingdom of Christ is realised, they are blessings that will no longer be considered blessings greater than their counterparts.
A stick and two berries
God, too, awoke to an earthly life featuring many a blessing. While He may not have found himself in such a small percentage as I, neither was He born into circumstances as unfortunate (for lack of a better word) as others of his time.
Even more significant in his time and culture than in mine, He awoke to having a stick and two berries between his legs, being healthy, financially-stable, and (arguably blessed as being) Jewish.
BUT here is what made him so radical and a proof there is a loving God worth following. Rather than using these blessings in an effort to further His blessings as so many (myself included) do, He willingly sought out those suffering under oppression and persecution.
He dined with 'crooks' (Matthew chapter 9, verse 10), He welcomed and reached out to touch outcast lepers (Mark chapter 1, verses 40–41), He invited prostitutes into His company (Luke chapter 7, verses 37–48) and befriended a Samaritan woman (John chapter 4, verses 7–29).
By way of parables and spoken word, reinforced by His intentional examples of love and compassion toward those with 'less', Jesus revolutionised the cultural views and religious teachings on righteousness.
A toss of a coin
I am so indescribably thankful for the blessings I have found myself with, and I understand the opportunity and responsibility that the God who is love asks me to take on.
I will choose to place myself among the oppressed and persecuted and say,
'We are of the same flesh and blood. I refuse to stand idle and allow fear and greed to constrict love. I will not play my role in oppression by furthering my wealth of 'blessings' while others suffer'.
For all I know it may have been as little as a toss of a coin that I was born Samuel Rillstone, European of New Zealand rather than Amina, Rohingya of Burma or Parbarti, Leper of Nepal, or Mohammed Moktar, Orphan of Kolkata. Theirs are the faces unseen and the voices unheard, hidden in the shadows of a world blindly consumed by a greed for more.
I admit the opportunities God has asked us to take on are incredibly daunting. I understand the 'rich man's' fear at letting go of his comforts and blessings (Mark chapter 10, verses 21–22). Even the disciples questioned Jesus' daunting challenge asking 'Then who has any chance at all?'
I am filled with a great excitement at God's will for my life. His reply gives me all the hope I need, inspiring me to spread such a powerful promise: 'Every chance in the world if you let God do it'.
From riches to rags
My blessings are many, so too are my opportunities; chances to greater my blessings, furthering my prosperity. But I have been given an even greater blessing than wealth, status or privilege. I have been blessed with anger at the disproportionate distribution of blessings among my society and world.
Initially this anger felt like more of a curse, I now understand it to be my greatest blessing—for it is expressed through my hope for Christ, God's love and His kingdom come.
My prayer is that all may experience anger at injustice, as well as the hope that I have been blessed with. That we see the beginnings of 'a great reversal' (Mark chapter 10, verse 31), where those who are rich in worldly blessings, will 'lesser' themselves as exemplified by Christ; so those under oppression and persecution will be empowered with the hope that they are no longer last. May we allow God to transform our riches into the rags needed to clothe those without.
Sam is currently living in Auckland, New Zealand working as a carpenter while starting up his own social enterprise to assist refugees into employment.
Sam Rillstone's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-rillstone.html