There are two ways to view oppression and persecution; (1) as being a victim and the negative societal effect or (2) as a righteous opportunity with positive eternal effects. But how do we properly see oppression and persecution through the eyes of God? We must take to heart what Jesus spoke and believe it, trust it, and apply it. Are you an oppressed victim or a victorious servant? Does how you handle oppression bring God glory? Is he pleased with how you live under oppression? We need to look at what Christ Jesus reveals to know and see how oppression can be turned on it head. How oppression can be a blessing and privilege in the life of a Christian.
Jesus’ Absolute Warning
Jesus gave us a heads up when it comes to living out your faith and proclaiming the gospel. “I
have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will
have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33). Is Jesus a liar? Did he say you may experience hardship? No, he said, with an absolute, you WILL have trouble. In John 15:18-23 Jesus states “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you...If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you….The one who hates Me also hates My Father.“ Jesus, God, makes it clear, the world (all those who have not in Christ) does hate you. Sorry, you can’t appease everything no matter how hard you try. This form of hate can be in various ways. And did they persecute Jesus? Yes. Therefore, they (those who are not in Christ) WILL persecute you. Again, the persecution can come in various ways. Hate can be disguised to seem nice and ‘good’. It can be in form of government systems or individual feelings. It can be disguised as help and assistance when in fact it is subtle oppression through economic slavery. But, no matter what, if you are IN Christ, you WILL be hated and persecuted. If you are not, are you faithfully and obediently following Christ and called out of the world, or does the world love you as their own still (John 15:19; Romans 1:32)? Guess what, you may fight for generations to become freed from government and societal oppression; but, you will still have oppression in the world.
In the Face of Hate, Oppression, and Persecution.
Being hated, oppressed and persecuted is meant to break you down and control you physically and mentally. It demoralizes and dehumanizes. It devalues the individual mentally and physically. It attempts to force a dominance of the oppressor over the oppressed. But, Jesus, flips the table (literally and metaphorically). The Sermon on The Mount is THE go-to sermon for all those who experience hate, oppression, and persecution.
The poor in spirit, are those who have been broken down by hate, oppression, and persecution. Their self worth is devalued, their hope is struggling, and their will to continue on is jeopardized. Jesus declares, that they are vastly worthy, their hope is greater than anything of this world, and the will to continue is taken away from things of this world and placed at the feet of God Almighty (Matthew 5:3).
Those who mourn, are those who have lost everything. Their worldly freedoms, possessions, even family members and friends taken away by the oppressors. The sense of freedom, individuality, and value ripped from them unjustly. They mourn for their losses. But Jesus declares that they WILL be comforted, by God Almighty (Matthew 5:4).
The gentle are taken advantage of. They are used and abused by the oppressors. They lose out on worldly success, material gains, and relationships that could foster protections and societal growth. Yet, Jesus declares they WILL inherit the earth. How? Jesus, himself, will subdue the oppressors and deliver justice (Matthew 5:5).
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness hunger and thirst because they struggle with revenge and the natural desire to seek their own justice on the oppressors. They know, their own justice is not sufficient and their own revenge would not truly satisfy or be justified, so they hunger and thirst for something greater- true divine justice and rightness. Jesus declares that they WILL be filled through the work of Christ Jesus (Matthew 5:6).
The merciful are blessed. The fact that they show mercy to the unjust deeds of the oppressor already reveals they have the inherent sense of the Godly nature of Mercy. Thus, they show mercy because they know it is more right than to not be merciful and seek to punish the oppressors. It is because they show mercy, they will be shown mercy from God. The oppressor on the other hand, who is not merciful in their oppression, will not be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7).
The pure in heart are blessed. They are those who recognize the inner rightness of God’s Law. They exhibit, in their heart, characteristics of God himself; Selflessness, love, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, seek goodness, truth and honesty; in the midst of being oppressed. Because they are self aware of these, they can more clearly see God himself. Thus, they are rewarded with the greatest of these, they WILL see God. In some way they “are” already blessed, they see the characteristics of God (Matthew 5:7).
The peacemakers are blessed. They seek peace in the face of injustice. At times, they even willingly submit to the oppression just to maintain peace. These are not those who are already at peace but they are peacemakers. Their efforts to seek peace is why they are already blessed. They overcome evil with good. But this is even true for those who were the oppressor, who then, breaks away to seek peace and not oppression. All those who seek peace are declared children of God because they share in Christs passion for reconciliation (Matthew 5:8).
To sum it all up, those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed. Righteousness is found in all those above. The humble, the sinner who knows he is a sinner and needs a savior, the gentle, those who desire righteousness, who are merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. The truest form of these is found in Christ Jesus and that is why they will inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:9).
Those who are insulted and persecuted for their unwavering open faith in Christ, are blessed. The hateful, oppressive, persecutors will stop at nothing. They will make up lies about the faithful. Distort, manipulate, misquote, vilify, slander, and unjustly judge. But, despite all that WILL happen, Jesus declares to “be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11).
True Freedom while hated, oppressed, and persecuted
Faith in Christ Jesus is TRUE freedom. But how so, if those who have faith in Christ are hated, oppressed and persecuted still? Being free in Christ means you are not a slave to the mind set and sinfulness that lead people to become hateful, oppressive and persecute. We are given the ability to not fall into that sinfulness, and if we do, we are empowered to be freed from it. Not only free from that slavery, but also free to exhibit characteristics that rise above it. Mercy, forgiveness, grace, selfless sacrificial love, and kindness are Godly attributes that can not be taken away by haters, oppressors, and persecutors. They have NO power to stop you from being merciful. They can not stop you from forgiving them. They can not stop you from showing them grace and kindness. They have no power to stop you from being selfless. You are free (John 8:36). And THAT is the blessing and privilege of being hated, oppressed, and persecuted! How so?
Haters, Oppressors, and Persecutors are Actually Slaves.
Those who are haters, oppressors, and persecutors are this way due to their slavery to their sin. To the sinful desires of their heart. They are blind and in bondage to their sin. Thus, the sin in the heart is manifested in their hatefulness, oppression, and persecution. In reality, they are the ones actually oppressed by their sin because they know no other way and without Christ are powerless to resist their sinful desires. They are bound by the Law of Sin and not by the Law of Life which is only found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). This is the truth, and it is knowing and believing this truth is what sets people free (John 8:32).
Being hated, oppressed, and persecuted in this world the becomes a greater opportunity to magnify the attributes of God and serve God through it. We bring glory to God when we bless the oppressors and pray for those who persecute us. An opportunity that we would not get other wise. Paul states “Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:11-15). Jesus even declares “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may show yourselves to be
sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the
evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45). In the face of evil and unrighteousness, hatred, oppression, and persecution; the children of God, who are in Christ, are given the unique opportunity and ultimately the privilege to not only glorify God in that oppression but also worship God through it. An opportunity that no one else gets. The faithful who are not oppressed do not get that opportunity. The worldly who are oppressed by their sin, don’t get it either. In some ways, it is even a test and judgement.
Your Right of Freedom From Oppression?
It is a privileged not to be oppressed. We are all sinners and are not worthy in our own merit to be delivered from oppression. Paul states “For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong” (Romans 13:6). God declares “By me kings reign” (Proverbs 8:15) and “the Most High has power over human kingdoms. He gives them to whomever he wishes” (Daniel 4:17). God may not even approve of the rules that mankind desires, but he still allows them to rule as judgement over the people (Hosea 8:4). We can even look at Egypt where God judged Egypt by hardening the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12). God guides the hearts of rulers and leaders for his will and purpose (Proverbs 21:1). When a government becomes oppressive, it is because God allowed it for his judgement. Not necessarily a judgement on God’s people in that nation or region, but over those who approve and support the evil of that government. They are handed over to their sin (Romans 1:24). It is not God’s people who suffer because in reality, they are free in Christ and already have the great reward waiting for them. Jesus even tells us “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). But because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and all have fallen into sin (Romans 3:23), and no one is good (Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:3; Romans 3:10-12), who are we to demand some kind of right of freedom from oppression? (Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:20). This is only reserved for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:2), given as a gift from God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:34, 6:23). Freedom from spiritual and worldly oppression is a gift from God- not a right.
As made known in the first paragraph, Jesus makes it clear, that oppression WILL happen and looking at the lives of the Prophets, Apostles, and the early church; freedom from the worldly oppression is far from a right we can demand. Does God deliver people from oppression, in the worldly sense? Yes, but it is only at the will of God for his purpose and is not a right for use to demand. Instead, we are to “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We are even called to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds...Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has
stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised
to those who love him” (James 1:2, 12). Thus, we are called, in Christ, to rejoice, pray, and give thanks all while being oppressed.
Should we call on God to bring about justice and free the oppressed from worldly oppression? Yes, it is a duty within the church to defend the oppressed and seek justice. But we must also, at the same time, remain Christ-like, eternally focused, and remind ourselves that we have something greater waiting for us in heaven, greater than a freedom from worldly oppression. Our more important mission is to proclaim the gospel to free the spiritually oppressed and this, will lead to freedom of systematic worldly oppression because it alone changes the hearts and minds of the culture. Changes in systems and public policy is a result of changed hearts and minds- from proclaiming the gospel, while under the systems and polices that are oppressive.
The blessing and privilege of oppression magnifies the gospel message and the attributes of God shining even brighter through those who exhibit them in the face of hate, oppression, and persecution. Not all Christians have the honor to exhibit this intense mature faith- but all should seek and desire it. When exhibited, they are the undeniable salt in the world and the brightest light that exposes the evils of oppression in a more clear way. This transforms cultures and nations, governments and public policies. It brings undeniable honor and glory to God and projects the righteousness of Jesus Christ for all the world to more clearly see. And that is a blessing and privilege to be chosen by God to participate in his plan of that magnitude.
If you have any questions or comments about this article please contact us or join our discussion forms
from Blogger https://ift.tt/2PiQs1s