I remember as a kid watching USC football games with my parents and praying for our team to win, and then wondering: What if the other team is praying too? Whose side will God choose? I know now that God is always on the side of the Bruins, but I still sometimes find myself theologically perplexed. I know God cares about all people, but doesn’t only one team get to win?
Professor Robert Chao Romero, in his book Brown Church* writes, “Jesus clearly articulates a preferential option for immigrants, the poor, and all who are disregarded by society. Jesus takes their side. Not only that, but he identifies so closely with the struggles of the poor that he sees himself in them.” (See Matthew 25 and the Beatitudes.)
Although most Christians can get behind the idea that Jesus loves the poor, it is not so easy to get behind the idea that God takes sides. Doesn’t God care about all his kids? Don’t we need to see every angle before making a verdict?
But when God chooses a side, he is not choosing between rival football teams. He is choosing between the powerful and the powerless. And he sides with the powerless every single time, no questions asked.
I frequently work with students who’ve experienced bullying or abuse. Sometimes I know the person doing the bullying. But I can never take sides with the bully, no matter how much I see their woundedness or their youth. My first priority is to the one being bullied. And as Christians, if our first response to appeals for justice is to defend the powerful or the status quo rather than the disregarded, then something within us is not fully aligned with the heart of Christ.
In order to realign, we need to first recognize our feelings of disorientation. If you come from a place of privilege or have benefited from the status quo, then the world has told you that the rules of the game are fair and you’re on the winning team. And when you study the Scripture and realize that Jesus has sided with people whose experience is nothing like yours, it can cause you to doubt the most foundational truth you ever learned: that Jesus loves you. We have to take that traumatic feeling back to Jesus and talk to him about it.
The second thing we can do is to ask Jesus to expand our view of the gospel: How is it good news that Jesus sides with the disregarded? How might your thriving be wrapped up in the thriving of the most vulnerable? How might Jesus be loving you by exposing your sin and inviting you to join him in siding with the oppressed?
* I highly recommend reading this book. Dr. Chao Romero weaves the history of the Latin American church, theology, and current day events in a way that will make you love Jesus so much more.