Reflection: Deuteronomy 24:17-18; Zechariah 7:9-10; Luke 4:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
The consequences of the Eden incident are catastrophic, and human history is brimming with dreadful examples of persecution and oppression when those in power create their own definitions of human personhood and rights, devoid of the Divine intent for man as the imago Dei. It totally inverted the values that would have preserved the shalom of God as a vision for society without hostility or fear. A further immediate outcome of the Adamic treason was the idolatry and violence between Abel and Cain that plunged them into a relational abyss that resulted in history’s first homicide.
Although the Bible does not hesitate to depict the harsh reality of aggression and tyranny, it clearly calls us to struggle for justice and mercy for all people as God has intended (a few of the numerous times He talked about it are Ex 23:2-3, 6; Deut 24:17-18; Prov 21:3). He reminded the Jews again through Zechariah (7:9-10), “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother, and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor, and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” And when Israel practices what has been preached, the unbelieving nations will be drawn to her light (Zech 8:20-23; Is 49:6). That remains unfulfilled, leaving a glimmer of hope that culminated with the arrival of our Messiah.
What Israel was unable to accomplish in measuring up to God’s ethical standard, Jesus became its realization, when He identified Himself with Isaiah’s prophesy in Luke 4. Liberating the captives and alleviating the burden of the poor and oppressed was central to His divine mission. His ultimate act of deliverance was His substitutionary death (as our outcast Saviour) and victorious resurrection, which set His people free from slavery to sin and death (Rom 8:1-4; Gal 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24).
Is it any wonder that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He opposed the dehumanizing presumptions of His ‘culture.’ He spent significant time with segments of the population that had no rights and were generally treated unfavorably: children, women, the poor, the diseased, Samaritans, and other outcasts. This counter-culture approach baffled the educated, the wealthy, and the powerful, so much so that Paul echoed this paradoxical approach in 1 Corinthians when he exclaimed, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” Extraordinary! Jesus was not looking for worldly influence when His ekklesia was constituted, but values that are deeply embedded in man’s imago Dei, to the extent of fearlessly challenging the religious and political establishment of His day on a few occasions.
Throughout church history, it is her love and ministrations to, and advocacy for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized that continue to position her as a formidable apologetic for the gospel, as she upholds the dignity of all people, and concretely expresses the biblical ethic of personhood flowing from it. In this sense she becomes a light to the nations, and participate in God’s mission by welcoming the weak and the powerless to find grace, mercy, and rest in Jesus Christ.