Since my arrival in the Philippines and exposure to many social issues to do with oppression and injustice I have been focusing on how Jesus directed us to address these issues. I see how Jesus’ life was full of the temptation to accept rule over the Jewish population and be the violent political leader that would lead the people to freedom from the tyranny of Rome (John 6:15). Jesus kept perfect perspective of his mission on earth as well as complete submission to the will of His Father in heaven. He obeyed, knowing he should suffer and redeem us sinners through his death rather than through powerful display of military might and heavenly authority (Matt 26: 52-54).
In contrast to the temptation to use military might, Jesus’ life culminates with the last supper and the example of suffering servant-hood in washing the disciples’ feet and giving them the rich symbolism of communion. Jesus’ example of humble service personifies the attitude of self-sacrifice that we must have because of his example. Jesus tells us that “No servant is greater that his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16). Since Jesus rejected the use of force in opposing his unjust arrest and persecution, then as His followers so should we. Since Jesus lay down his life in service to the sick, so should we. Since Jesus humbled himself and took on the very nature of a servant and did not consider equality with God something to take hold of considering his role on earth, a sacrifice, (Phil 2:6-7) so should we.
Through thinking about the social aspects of the gospel and nonviolent methods of addressing an oppressive regime I have found a different lens for reading scripture. Jesus’ address of Isaiah 61 and later description of the focus of his gospel message, the kingdom of God/Heaven, was “borrowed extensively from the prophetic understanding of the jubilee year” (Yoder, 30). So what are the attributes of the call to jubilee? In summary, the function of jubilee was to rebalance the economy every 50 years. Every household was to free its slaves, cancel all debts, let the land lay fallow and the wealth (land or goods that symbolize the access to livelihood) of the household is to be redistributed to its original holders (God the economist, Meeks, M. Douglas).
This pattern was established so that the people of Israel would remember their slavery in Egypt and maintain their freedom as well as the freedom of their brothers. The mercy of God must be shown to brothers, rich and poor, by a just redistribution of wealth.
The jubilee and the Kingdom of God remind us that we were once in bondage (Deut 24:18,22, Rom 6:6 ASV) and that by God’s actions in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we are no longer in bondage and should celebrate humanity’s freedom by living our freedom the way Christ did; living justly and with humility to His creation. In our freedom we are called to treat everyone, if they know about the freedom or not, as brothers freed through Christ with love like a family! We must strive to encourage the rest of the body of Christ to do the same. Expand justice and equality on earth. Jesus taught us disciples to pray, “your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”(Matt 6:10). If we are disciples of Christ, we are called to learn what the kingdom looks like and bring that kingdom with our actions as well as our prayers.
In action as citizens of His kingdom we testify that we have been forgiven, reconciled to God, the King, and are free from the bondage of sin and empowered as sons and daughters of the King (Matt 5:6, Gal 3:26-4:7) to live a life of love demonstrated by the person Jesus Christ.
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).
Glory to God.