What Might Jesus Say to a Culture Clamoring About Oppression and Victimization?

Jul 15, 2021 by David Fowler

What Might Jesus Say to a Culture Clamoring About Oppression and Victimization?
Today I want to speak to what a non-Christian friend calls “the Church that’s substituted Mr. Nice for Jesus Christ” and, using Jesus’ own words, consider how He might have responded to those in American society complaining about their oppression and victimization. I suspect those of the Church of Mr. Nice and those to whom it seeks to appeal would be horrified, and they, along with the others, would “cancel” Him again. It may even happen to me.
Let me begin by acknowledging that there are people in our society who are oppressed and taken advantage of (remember, institutions are run by people). There is a long history of individuals oppressing or victimizing others, beginning with Cain killing Abel, and coming together to oppress others not like them.
However, that history doesn’t mean we must despair of any improvement; again, history shows that things have improved for vast numbers of people over the millennia and even in our own nation.  
But these wrongs need to be addressed in ways that get at the root of the problem. 
Neither critical race theory nor opposing critical race theory will do that.
Tearing down or defunding institutions and reconstructing or funding some different set of institutions will not necessarily do that; institutions in Cuba, Korea, China, and Iran are different from ours, but no one would say they are free of oppression and subjugation. 
And that is what leads me to two “bad” situations into which Jesus spoke. I suspect what he said would horrify the church of Mr. Nice.

The ‘Mean’ Things the ‘Nice’ Jesus Said

This is how the Apostle John recounted one of Jesus’ interactions with a crowd:
“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:1-3)
What?! They wanted to know who to blame for this heartbreaking situation, and Jesus says that it is God—that God has a reason and purpose for the man being born blind. That’s really not nice!
Here is another, this one from Luke:
“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you supposed that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or of those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1-5).
No message of comfort here for the Galileans or the victims of the terrible accident in Siloam. No rebuke of the victimizing oppressor Pilate. Growing up in the church, I don’t recall any preaching on that passage.


Translating Jesus for Modern Man

Before I draw two applications, I suspect Jesus’ words were intended to jolt them, to make them think beyond the surface of the thoughts they expressed. Consequently, my paraphrase of what Jesus said incorporates the one, continuous but developing story of the Bible Scriptures they had that Jesus’ words should have prompted them to re-examine:
God is God and you are not. God, by virtue of alone having eternal being in and of Himself and by virtue of His attributes, is the only being whose very nature can truly be said to possess glory. 
Therefore, when He created all things, He did so for His glory, which means that what was created was to reveal and manifest His glory and be used for His glory. Any other purpose for any created thing would be “beneath Him,” as we would say. 
That purpose was not jettisoned because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and that explains why Jesus said what he did about the blind person. God chose to give being to a person who would be blind from birth to demonstrate His glory and authenticate Jesus’ redemptive commission by doing what no created being could do: “redeem” his sight.
That is also why Jesus said you have bigger things to worry about than Pilate’s murderous oppression and who might be at fault for the tower’s collapse. He was saying that they had exchanged the glory of God and the glory for which they were created for other things (Romans 1:21-23), and, consequently, they stood under the just judgment of a perfect, holy God (John 3:18, Ephesians 3:23). Their views of justice, righteousness, and what makes them fully and truly human are way too small (Isaiah 55:8-9). 
Notice that Jesus ignored the surface issues of concern to them to penetrate to the real, fundamental issue from which they could begin to make sense of a world that seems mean, hard, and unpredictable. Oppressive acts are a logical effect of turning away from and being against the Creator God (Psalm 51:4) whose very being entails the holy love eternally existing between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Application No. 1

Jesus said he had come “to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18, quoting Isaiah 61:1), and Jesus wanted those to whom He spoke to see clearly the nature of their captivity, a captivity that leads people to oppress other people through their not-true-to-God’s glory judgments and actions. 
He wanted them to realize they were already under God’s condemnation (John 3:18; Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:3), and, by knowledge of the truth, there was a liberty from that condemnation that transcended any present circumstances (John 8:32). It was this knowledge that allowed the Apostle Paul to say, “[F]or I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-12).


Application No. 2

Learning to be content is not the same as fatalistic resignation. Those who have been reconciled to God by means of the way He provided (union with Christ by the Spirit of Christ) have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and have been called to “reconcile all things” back to God (Colossians 1:20). It is time we get busy.
Here is the application question: Are all those who “follow Jesus” willing to follow Him in saying all that He said, even if we, like Him, get canceled for doing so? 
After all, it is His glory, not our own, that we seek.

If you would like to better understand what Christ was doing and the implications of that for this present life, particularly in the sphere of law and government, catch this week’s episode of God, Law & Liberty.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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