Monday, July 27, 2015

Opportunity No Longer Opportune?

It used to be said, “When Opportunity knocks, don’t forget to answer the door.” Now, apparently, when Opportunity chooses to knock, we should respond by shouting, “Go away, you racist, sexist so-and-so!”

Recently University of California faculty members were provided a list of “microaggressive” terms to be avoided, words and phrases that could be construed as bigotry. Among them is the term, “land of opportunity.” Part of the reasoning, it seems, is that it “assert(s) that race and gender (do) not play a role in life successes.” Gee, who knew? Years ago when I was hiring staff people and discussed the opportunity they could have in working for us, I had no idea I was offending anyone. Sorry ‘bout that!

When opportunity knocks,
who is answering?
These days it’s not opportunity, but entitlement that has many people excited. If you’re a certain demographic, there are those who believe you’re automatically entitled, whether you’re deserving or not. Simply having the opportunity isn’t enough.

Looking over my life, I can recall many instances when I had opportunities – and other times when I didn’t. I was able to earn a high school diploma, then attend and graduate from college, earn a master’s degree, and then become hired for a succession of jobs that afforded me many opportunities for growth both professionally and personally.

But I never had the opportunity to play basketball in the NBA, college or even high school. Too short, too slow, too uncoordinated. Shame on those coaches for being so intolerant of my deficiencies!

I’ve never had the opportunity to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Guess I wasn’t brash enough to say “You’re fired!”, or good-looking enough to appear in TV commercials. And no one yet has given me the opportunity to perform brain surgery. (And countless thousands, whether they know it or not, are grateful for that.)

But then I think of my grandparents, who immigrated to the United States from Hungary, passing through the portals of Ellis Island outside New York City. They came to this country because they did view it as a “land of opportunity,” and seemed to forge reasonably happy, successful lives. My grandfathers worked in steel mills of McKeesport, Pa., and while they never earned more money than required for the daily needs of their families, I don’t recall my parents talking about anyone dying of starvation or suffering from other forms of deprivation.

Today we have men and women of all ethnicities and backgrounds that have risen to positions of prominence in virtually all strata of society. This doesn’t mean everyone is destined to hold roles of high influence, but that doesn’t mean they can’t experience fulfilling lives.

Thinking of opportunities, perhaps most important are the assurances the Bible gives us of what God offers to us all. In Jeremiah 29:11, we’re told He has a purpose for us all. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

We’re given the opportunity to join with God in this great enterprise He’s established on earth. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

The Lord extends to us the opportunity and privilege of serving as His representatives in a world that desperately needs to know and see Him in action in the lives of His people. “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Perhaps best of all, God invites us to share in the most special of opportunities, to become members of His eternal family. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).

Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). More than 35 years ago I answered the door when Jesus knocked, and when I get caught up in the busyness of life, He continues to knock, reminding me that He’s there, ready to spend time with me. This greatest opportunity of all is available to anyone who will accept it.

In many nations, men, women and children who profess faith in Christ face threats of violent persecution, even death. Today in the United States, opposition toward those who believe in the Bible and follow Jesus seems on the increase, but at least for now we have the opportunity – the freedom – to worship and order our lives according to our convictions.

And for those feel disinclined to believe in Jesus, the Bible, or even a God of all creation, that opportunity is there for them as well.

So do we live in the “land of opportunity”? In more ways than not, I’d have to say that we do.

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