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Jesus Calls Us to be Allies

An ally is someone who resists injustice on behalf of marginalized people. An ally may have social privilege and social power that those on the margins lack, and they use that power to expose injustice, to speak against injustice, and to propose just alternatives. Followers of Jesus, who seek to serve as allies, look to the ways that Jesus broke social stigma, empowered the powerless, drew people from the margins to the center, and embodied a vision of shalom where ALL would flourish. Every time Jesus interacted with women, with the unclean, with Samaritans, with Gentiles, with those of low class or social standing, we see Jesus serving as an ally.

For the last 15 years, I’ve had the gift to minister with LGBTQ+ people, who often continue to experience marginalization in the church, in their families, and in society. Below are some things I've learned about being an ally:

1. It's not about you.

Try to embody humility as CS Lewis defined it: "self-forgetfulness." Don't worry about who notices, who approves, who appreciates .... none of that is the focus.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6: 2-4

2.  It will cost you.

But it won't cost you nearly as much as the burden that those you are an ally to live with every day.

3. You don't get to be angrier than the people you are being an ally to. (see point 1)

Sometimes an ally's anger has more to do with their own privilege than they realize. They have the safety and power to feel free to be angry.

4. Being an ally isn't merely about one particular group of people.

A true ally is motivated by a drive for justice, where ALL can flourish.

“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
  and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

5. Allies forfeit the right to get defensive. (see point 1)
6. Allies recognize the need to keep learning and take ownership to keep educating themselves.

Do not expect that marginalized people will carry the burden of educating you.

7. Allies need to pay attention to self-care.

But that doesn't mean just opting out from difficult situations. Remember, the people we're allies to don't get to opt out, they face inequity every day.

8. Allies need spiritual disciplines. 

Allies need to learn to release the grief, including the anger that accompanies it, that they experience.

“I cried out to God for help;
  I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord….

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
  yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
 I will consider all your works
  and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77: 1, 2 & 11, 12

9. Being an ally will open your eyes to more injustice than you were initially attuned to.

This can be overwhelming but don't let it paralyze you.

10. Recognize that self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and whispers of uncertainty are par for the course.

Don't let them have too much power or allow them to distract you.

11. Look for opportunities to resist.

But be careful that you aren't taking up space that should be filled by someone you're an ally to. (see point 1)

12. Grow in enemy-love.

If an ally is not growing in the capacity to love, even to love those who oppose you, you will become part of the problem, perpetuating violence and hatred. Miroslav Volf said, “The harder I pursue justice, the blinder I become to the injustice that I myself perpetuate.”

13. You can both need ally-ship and be an ally to others.

In fact, it is good to acknowledge where you, yourself, need ally-ship.

14. Don't presume to take on the identity of an ally.

Recognition of ally-ship is bestowed by those you serve. (see point 1)

Jesus willingly relinquished power, status, reputation, and privilege when he took on human flesh. Jesus modelled self-emptying love that lifted up the lowly and brought justice to the oppressed.

Jesus said of himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
  because he has anointed me
  to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
  and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4: 18, 19

What have you learned about being an ally?

[Image: Flickr user Wonder woman 0731, under Creative Commons license]


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