We live in a world of oppression and injustice and I am confident anyone who might actually be reading these posts would be able to speak of the oppression and injustice they have felt in their lifetime. In fact, any person you stop on the street would be able to describe the troubles of this world and how certain groups never receive the just treatment they deserve.
If the conversation were to continue you would hear solutions proposed. Often these solutions involve punishing another group, sometimes it involves enacting laws or regulations, and at other times the solutions become more extreme. Some will suggest not only does the civil government need to change, but it needs to be removed and rebuilt entirely because the foundations upon which the current government is built, they say, is problematic.
I realize some may wonder why I am writing of oppression. I have had a fairly easy life. I was born into a good place with good parents and have a fairly good socio-economic standing. As such, it might be said, I can’t have anything meaningful to say about oppression and injustice. In fact, some may say, I am part of the problem. I don’t know, maybe I am, maybe I’m not, I just don’t know.
But there is one thing I think I do know: the term “oppression” means different things to different people; there is no absolute definition. I also think I know another thing: those who are not oppressed must listen to those who claim to be oppressed for it is impossible to understand someone else’s experience. I can’t sit in isolation and mentally concoct an understanding of oppression; I have to get my hands dirty and start a relationship with other. Only when I listen am I able to understand what someone else is going through.
Now that I’m thinking about it, there is another thing I know. The solution to oppression doesn’t lie in changing governmental structure. It doesn’t lie in tearing down a system and replacing it. It doesn’t even lie in punishing the wrong doers. Don’t get me wrong, those all might be good things, but they will never solve the problem and they will never remove oppression and injustice.
What I mean is, oppression and injustice are part and parcel of this fallen world. Read any history book and you will find it on every page. Read any religious book and you will find their major tenets all discuss how to respond to injustice. Injustice is pervasive. Even Jesus, the God of the universe made flesh, admitted the persistence of oppression and injustice when he said, “you will always have the poor.”
But I don’t think this means we turn a blind eye to oppression and injustice, rather, we are called to meet it head on and do what we can to change it. We are to be actively seeking the good of the city where we live and pray on its behalf, for when it prospers we will prosper (Jer. 29:7). This may frequently mean changing systems, or restructuring government, but more often it means swallowing our damnable pride and listening to those who cry “oppression,” realizing that to them it is real. (And, truth be told, it probably is real, not just to them, but in an absolute sense.)
There is something else we need to understand, and this might be the most important thing of all. There is only one source of true justice and that is the eternal God who created us, lived among us, cried with us, died for us, and rose again. “Again!” you say. “Not the Jesus answer, again!” Well, sorry folks, until another eternal being with infinite love and compassion promising to right all wrongs comes along, that’s the only place we can go.
In the face of mounting oppression and injustice, David knew this when asked for only one thing: to dwell in God’s house. David knew it was the only viable shelter from the storms of life. He knew it was the only safe haven for those times when the earth seems to fall apart. And he knew it was the only place where justice could be found.
I often wonder if we bypass God and move to solutions of our own invention because we think God is too ethereal. He is spirit but, we say, our problems are material. Well, this is where I think we are wrong. The true problem with injustice in the world today is an arrogant spirit: the problem lies in our sinful soul. Injustice and oppression don’t flow from a system of government, it is the product of the sinful people with whom we rub shoulders on a daily basis. It is you. It is I. I am the problem in the world.
Until we recognize the face in the mirror is the one responsible for oppression and injustice; until we realize it is the only one for which I am responsible; and until we realize only God can change it, then this world will continue to spin out of control producing oppression and injustice. But if we seek the Lord and allow him to teach us his ways and lead us in his straight paths, then we can, with the Psalmist, truly expect to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.