The Price Tag Of Honor

There is a long history of racial hurt in the world.  This week, soccer fans from Russia and Poland clashed after their teams played to a 1-1 tie.  The fighting wasn’t about sport, it was about the generational anger that has grown out of Russia’s history of oppression over the Poles.

In America we often see race as a White Vs. Black issue,
yet prejudice sees more than just two colors globally.

I believe that our oversimplification of racial issues demonstrates a self-centered approach to societal justice; we tend to believe that our racial issues are the biggest.

Our selfish oversimplification of prejudice also leaks into our responses to racial clashes doesn’t it?  Too often we make equality the responsibility of the oppressed, asserting that things will change for the better when people begin to “stand up for themselves”.  But when we narrow our focus onto simplistic answers we often set ourselves up for failure.

For instance, we often talk about the beauty of living in a “colorblind society”, a culture where race makes no difference because we simply refuse to acknowledge our differences.  Instead of treating others the way that we would like to be treated, we hope to treat them as if they actually are “the same as us.” But doesn’t this type of thinking lead to a watering-down of humanity for the sake of a stale homogeny born from denial?

Can there truly be racial and cultural equity when each person is called to give up their cultural or personal history?

I’ve learned from my own personal failures that human reconciliation, between people of any color, actually begins as we acknowledge our responsibility to stand up for the rights of others.

In much the same way, the reconciliation of people groups begins when people are willing to acknowledge the unique and beautiful differences in one another, and then make efforts to honor them with their words and actions.

When we won’t do this, don’t we leave marginalized or oppressed groups to stand up for themselves?


What if the key to justice isn’t expecting that others stand up for their rights?

Last week a California High School Senior was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.  He had worked hard, filled out the required paperwork, and completed the interviews.  When he arrived at the ceremony to receive the check, it became apparent that there was a problem.  He, and his family, were in the racial minority of attenders.

You see the scholarship was intended for an African-American student,
and the winner,
Jeffery Warren,
was white.

When he walked onto the podium to collect his handshake, compensation, and certificate there were audible snickers from the crowd.  Apparently no one involved with the scholarship program knew that Warren was white until he arrived for the award.

The application didn’t ask if he was African-American, and the interview was conducted over the phone.  On paper “Jeffery Warren” seemed African-American enough to receive the scholarship.

The scholarship committee chose to honor him and insisted that since the application did not explicitly forbid non African-American applicants, Jeffery Warren should receive the scholarship that he had earned.

The Warren family returned home, proud but concerned.  They agreed that giving the money back to the committee was the right thing to do.

No one forced the scholarship committee to give money that had been set aside for African-American students to Jeffery, and no one forced Jeffrey to return the money so that it could go to an equally deserving African-American student.

What if the key to reconciling with others is found by standing up for our responsibilities?

When we believe that the responsibility to honor others (regardless of personal cost) belongs to us, we act on that belief.  When we act on that belief we create the climate necessary for equality and reconciliation to grow.

No one pretended that Jeffery Warren wasn’t white.

They just honored him.

Jeffery Warren didn’t pretend to be African-American.

He just honored them.

Standing up for our rights usually alienates others in the same way that demanding they stand up for themselves disrespects them.

What inspires us about Jeffery Warren?

He wouldn’t put a price tag on a people group.

And when he saw the purchase price of honor,

He recognized that $1,000 was a bargain.

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” -Philippians 2:1-5

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