In Part 1 of the blog post, we have seen a summary of the liberation theology of Jesus, in his proclamation of the good news of grace in Luke 4:18-19. We have also seen that examples of oppression include the slavery and its aftermath in the American South. After the abolition of slavery, the oppression of the black community persisted until today, as seen in the cases of white police brutality against unarmed black people, for example.
The bible was written by the oppressed
Hence, Jesus’ mission to liberate the oppressed in the 1st century is just as relevant in the 21st century today. In fact, it is said that the Bible was written by the oppressed for the oppressed, who share in the struggle for equality and emancipation. In ancient times, the Jews were subjugated by one empire after another, culminating in their domination by the Roman Empire. The writers of the old and new testaments used symbolic language to describe their experiences, including the despair they felt at the hands of the oppressors and the hope they cherished in becoming free from the oppression.
In our times, the white supremacy system is the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire. Since the end of the Middle Ages, the Europeans have colonized lands and stolen their resources, and have killed, enslaved or exploited many people of color, notably the black community, in these lands. It is said that America is successful (at least, materially) today because of the exploitation of people of color by the white-dominated system, which has put in place laws, ordinances and policies in various institutions that often give advantages and privileges to white people at the expense of people of color. The entire discriminatory and oppressive system can be summed up as the law or “the handwriting in the ordinances that is against us, that was contrary to us” in Colossians 2:14.
“having blotted out the handwriting in the ordinances that is against us, that was contrary to us, and he hath taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross;”
(Colossians 2:14, Yong’s Literal Translation)
The above quote relates to Colossians 2:14-15 about Jesus having taken the law – or the ordinances or the oppressive man-made systems and policies – that was against us out of the way through the cross, so that we can be freed from oppression. Yes, a revolution involves liberating ourselves from the yoke of the law through challenging and dismantling the systems, just as Jesus also “having stripped the principalities and the authorities, he made a shew of them openly — having triumphed over them in it”.
We are protected when we are under grace and not under law
I believe that when Jesus preached the gospel of grace in Luke 4:18-19, he was alluding to how sin is overcome as grace triumphs over the law. Let’s define sin, grace and law from a sociopolitical perspective.
Sin is disturbance of the peace that God originally intended for the world. It is when people don’t love one another as brothers and sisters. (1 John) In other words, sin is the systemic oppression of humanity.
Grace is a community of people who love and support one another, and protect each other from the oppression of the law or the system. The Black Lives Matter Movement and other Black support groups are examples of such communities.
The law is the system put in place by the privileged, or the principalities and powers, to control, oppress and subjugate others, usually certain groups of people at different times in history.
With the above definitions in mind, we can expand on the verse in Paul’s exposition of the good news of grace in Romans 6:14 below.
For sin (disturbance of peace due to systemic oppression) shall not have dominion over you who are not under the law (the privileged system that discriminates against you) but under grace (a community of people who love and support each other in the emancipatory struggle against the system).
(To be continued in Part 3)