President’s Postscript | Our Privilege
by President J. Derek Halvorson ’93
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. . . . In Him we have obtained an inheritance.” Ephesians 1:3, 11
Are you privileged? I’m not. I didn’t attend a fancy prep school or an Ivy League university. My family never owned a second home. I drive a used Volkswagen. And yet, I am privileged. For one thing, I am a white male. I benefit from the fact that I have inherited, through no effort of my own, the privileges that go with being a white man in America. As Andy Crouch has argued in his recent book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (IVP, 2013), privilege in itself is not a bad thing. However, there are right and wrong ways to respond to our privilege.
I want to suggest that every member of the Covenant College family is privileged. We come from widely different backgrounds—different socio-economic strata, different neighborhoods, different schools, different family situations. And yet, we can all point to numerous ways in which we enjoy the benefits of work that we did not do ourselves. Certainly not least of these is the remarkable gift, the unmerited privilege that we share with every member of the body of Christ, of adoption into the family of God, the inheritance of the saints. This is the inheritance that Paul refers to three times in Ephesians 1. On top of that, those of us who are part of the Covenant family are also beneficiaries of a heritage of rich and rigorous biblical thought and vibrant Christian piety. These are gifts to us—good things that we did not create ourselves, good things that we perhaps don’t deserve. They have been entrusted to us.
So how will we respond to our privilege? First, we should all adopt a stance of gratitude. Each of us has been given an abundance of great gifts, many of which we did not create or deserve or earn. These unmerited gifts should promote a posture of gratitude. Second, we ought to give our privilege away through service. And what does it look like for a privileged person to serve? Surely one of the best examples of this is Maundy Thursday, when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. The text that directly precedes Jesus’ action in John 13 tells us that Jesus knew the Father had given all things into His hands. He had been given everything. He knew His identity. He knew His ultimate destination. His path was secure. He had power, and privilege, and status. And what did He do? He served those around Him.
Our response to our privilege ought to be to give it away—to share the benefits that have been bestowed on us, to give ourselves in service to those in our community, wherever that may be. We should not see our privilege as a tool for protecting ourselves. Rather, it ought to be a means by which we bear faithful witness to the one who set aside ultimate privilege on our behalf. We ought to pour ourselves out as an act of gratitude to the gracious God who has given us all things.