Tag Archives: oppression

Stop and Think About the Bible

Torah ScrollLearn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed. Isaiah 1:17 NRSV

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3 NRSV

  • Secular thinkers believe they can figure out what is good by observing what makes them feel good. This means that the good is relative to the person making the choice. Christians teach that the Bible is where we learn what is good. Christians believe that the Bible reveals absolute good. How do you explain to a secular thinker the value of an absolute revealed good?
  • Do you observe oppression in the USA? Who is oppressed?
  • Social and political activists say that it is unfair that more people of color are imprisoned than white people. What do they think determines the rate of imprisonment? What do you think determines the rate of imprisonment? Are people of color routine oppressed because of their color by US society? By the government? What does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says we should show empathy for prisoners? Does this statement justify activism to release prisoners on the basis of skin color? What do you think determines the number and proportions of the prison population?
  • In Muslim countries Christians are frequently arrested for blasphemy. In socialist countries they are arrested for unauthorized worship. In countries with a history of animist religions they are arrested by not participating in rituals that are considered necessary for the prosperity of their communities. What must imprisoned Christians do about these threats? What must US Christians do?
  • These differences also turn on a difference of perception of what is good. What can Christians do to help others understand how we discern what is good?


Free from Oppression

The lesson of the American Revolutionary War is that human beings want to be free and they will endure a great deal of suffering if suffering is the price of freedom.

The founding of Christianity also cost a great deal of suffering, and that suffering purchased freedom for all people. The American Revolution set British colonists free from oppression by a tyrannical king. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ set all people free from the oppression of a tyrannical demon.

Peter, an eyewitness to the work of Jesus during his ministry, described Jesus’ work as ‘healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” (Acts 10:38). He lumped together the sick, the lame, the deaf and the demon-possessed in a single group – those who were oppressed by the devil. Peter saw the devil behind all human suffering, with good reason, because human suffering only began when humans were cast out of the Garden of Eden after Satan successfully lured them to reject God.

Suffering of any kind narrows people’s horizons. Anyone who has had any serious illness knows that it can be a major task simply to drink a sip of water. The same thing happens when people are overburdened with stress or fear. You might get up one morning and feel that anything is possible, only to discover that someone else was given the promotion you worked toward for three years, and suddenly your world closes in and feels very small and dark. This is the way people feel when evil imprisons and oppresses them.

The message of Easter is that Christ’s death and resurrection set people free from that imprisonment. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus told us that evil will always be part of the world, but in Christ, we can be set free from its oppressive power.

When Peter went to visit Cornelius he told the people gathered there what Christ had done. Peter told them about Christ’s death and resurrection, and as he was explaining that he and many others had shared meals with the risen Christ, the Holy Spirit fell on the whole group. Peter said simply, “everyone who believes in [Christ] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.´ (Acts 10:42) Forgiveness of sin is the experience of being set free from the oppression of the devil.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he could only heal those he could reach. He was God incarnate, and in that incarnation, he did not reach out to everyone. However, the resurrected Christ is available to all. The risen Christ is the promise to everyone that God wants us to be free. When we enter into a relationship with Christ through baptism, we are released from the prison of sin and our world becomes spacious. God created each person with gifts for service and fulfillment. When we belong to Christ we are set free from Satan’s constraints that suppress our achievements and our fulfillment. Free from Satan’s power, we can become all that God had in mind for us.

This is true freedom.