Luke 4.16-30; Luke 11.20-23
Link to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail:” http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html
In one of Jesus’ earliest recorded statements about himself, he quotes from the prophet Isaiah that God’s spirit is upon him to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. If you follow the life and ministry of Jesus you will see him again and again be a liberator. This is, to me, the most profound function of Jesus–to liberate the captive, however they are captive. I believe in my short life that through God’s spirit Jesus has liberated me from many false notions of what life is about and what true religion is about. I believe he has liberated me from habits, behaviors and attitudes that inhibit my ability to care for myself and others. And in faith I look forward to continued liberation from myself.
But I also believe that as important as my personal liberation is, there is much more profound and urgent liberation that Christ has been engaged in and wil continue to be engaged in. As important as my spiritual growth and self-actualization matters to God, I believe he is much more concerned about those in chronic poverty, whether in our country or anywhere else in the world; I believe he is concerned about equality between races, cultures, governments, religions, genders and sexualities. I believe God desires justice for all. Like the prophet Amos says, Let justice roll down like a mighty water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
This is the good news about God as revealed in Jesus: he is in the process of bringing liberty and justice to all. But the bad news about Jesus is that often, this liberation and justice requires the sacrifice of the powers that be and the individuals who benefit from the current power structure. In the quote from Isaiah that Jesus uses about himself, the prophecy mentions that part of the servant’s call is to proclaim the “vengeance of our God.” This means that often, God’s work of liberation also requires a work of judgment and punishment against the systems that maintain injustice. This is why any great liberator in earth’s history either was threatened, or usually had their life ended, by the systems/powers/institutions that were the mediators of injustice.
So the challenge for us is that are we, the passive beneficiaries of the power systems, willing to sacrifice our position, our power, our benefits, our wealth in order to see the expansion of God’s justice in the world. Is God’s spirit upon us? Will we be, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “extremists for love”?
I look forward your comments.