As I journey alongside of those who are (needlessly) in exile today I am often faced by questions like these:
“What about the rich? What about the comfortable? Aren't we suppose to commit ourselves to journeying alongside of these people as well? Shouldn't we be living in solidarity with them too?”
Now then, apart from the fact that these questions are always raised by Christians that are (surprise, surprise) rich and comfortable (which makes me wonder just a wee bit about the objectivity of the questioners), I have tried to answer these questions in a few different ways in prior blog entries and, for the most part, I'll try not to repeat what I have already said elsewhere.
However, I was doing some reading in Exodus with these questions in mind and I was struck by Moses' interactions with Pharaoh. Upon my first reading I thought that the answer was simple: Moses clearly sided with the Hebrew slaves, and he sided against Pharaoh as well as the wealthy, comfortable Egyptians. Therefore, I thought, because those of us who follow Jesus are to be a people proclaiming the end of exile, and the end of slavery, we must side with some people and against other people. Moses has very little interest in journeying alongside of Pharaoh; in fact, he seems to demonstrate no interest whatsoever in journeying alongside of the rich and comfortable in Egypt.
However, even I am a little uncomfortable with that conclusion. I really don't like the idea of siding wholeheartedly against any person, or any people group. Certainly resistance, subversion, and even outright (nonviolent) rebellion are all necessary things, yet the idea of completely discarding an entire group of people does not sit well with me. It seems that the liberation that Christ offers is a freedom that liberates both the oppressed from oppression and the oppressors from being oppressors.
Therefore, I reread the Exodus story with that question in mind — where, in this story, does God (or Moses) offer liberation to Pharaoh? And then it hit me. The whole time I was thinking that God's command — “Let my people go!” — was a command that sought the liberation of the Hebrews. Don't get me wrong, it is that. However, it is also a demand that seeks the liberation of Pharaoh. By calling Pharaoh to stop enslaving the Hebrews, God is calling Pharaoh to conversion and liberation. God is offering Pharaoh the freedom to stop enslaving others; he is offering Pharaoh a wondrous new way of living. He is offering Pharaoh salvation.
As I thought some more about this in light of the various ways in which Jesus' call is extended to various people in his ministry (unconditionally to the woman who washes his feet, conditionally to the rich young ruler — i.e. Jesus' call seems to be one of radical welcome to the poor and one that requires radical conversion on the part of the wealthy), I realized that the offer of salvation, that the call to conversion, looks very different depending on whether a person is oppressed or whether a person is an oppressor.
Consequently, I am lead to conclude that, yes, we are called to journey in solidarity with the wealthy and the comfortable of this world. However, the way in which we show our solidarity with the wealthy looks very different than the solidarity we share with the poor.
To the poor we say: your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more. And this is an expression of our solidarity with them.
To the wealthy we say: let God's people go. And this is what solidarity with the wealthy looks like. It is the type of solidarity that liberates them from having their humanity warped by their role as an oppressor and allows them to be restored to the truly glorious image of God — the image of God that is especially embodied by the crucified Christ.