If life’s a baseball game, I was born on second base.
A white male with a stable two-parent family in middle-class America, access to quality public K-12 education and very low-cost, world-class university. I got an undeniable head start in a culture that’s allowed me to maintain and amplify my lead with less effort than others.
I did nothing to deserve my advantage. That’s how privilege works. It’s not fair.
To further torture the baseball metaphor…
I can pretend I hit a double. I’m on second base because somehow I’m superior to, or more deserving than, those who must begin at home plate with crummy equipment and no coaching. This, of course, is ridiculous.
I can feel guilty about my undeserved advantage. I’ll sit at second base and do nothing because I feel sorry for those who have to work their tails off just to get out of the batter’s box.
I can honestly acknowledge the situation. Everyone begins with advantages or deficits. Coaching. Equipment. Talent. Access. The game isn’t fair.
Injustice exists. Its victims don’t deserve their situation, just as I don’t deserve my good fortune. Nobody deserves to be permanently paralyzed in a freak accident or born in a brothel.
People do not get what they deserve.
Once we accept the reality of injustice, we can get on with what Jesus calls us to do. We’re asked to seek justice, to set things right from a kingdom perspective.
Seeking justice doesn’t have to mean going back to home plate. It might mean that, for those who are called to step directly into the fray. For them it might mean stepping into difficult or even dangerous circumstances.
Others seek justice by capitalizing on their advantage. They build capacity – education, resources, platform – not for personal gain but to increase their capacity to serve. These folks understand that leadership, influence, talent, and finances aren’t meant to cause guilt or to be hoarded and accumulated. They’re gifts from God, welcomed and used in a spirit of gratitude, humility, and service.
But I can’t do any of this until I acknowledge the reality of injustice and privilege. All kinds of cultural, geographical, biological, genetic, and demographic factors combine to place each person at different starting points. Pretending it’s fair that I got to start on second base only compounds the problem.
Wherever we started, however we got to where we are, we can be grateful. And we can begin from there to do our best to set things right.