What Kind of Freedom does Christ offer?
Isaiah 61 is that passage quoted by Jesus when he reads the scroll of Scripture in the Synagogue. What I find significant, in studying and preparing to teach on this, is that Jesus doesn’t read the whole passage. He stops mid-sentence, after ‘the favorable year of the Lord’, but before, ‘the day of vengeance of our God.’ Then, significantly, he says, ‘today THIS scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
Why would he do that? It appears, from the perspective of history, that this was his approach because it was his way of saying that the ‘day of vengeance’ wasn’t yet here. There are all kinds of signs that have unfolded to confirm this, including the fact that he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey during the last week of his life, which is a symbol of a king coming in peace.
If we would only embrace this reality, we would save ourselves a lot of heartache. The fact that the ‘day of vengeance’ isn’t here yet means that the power structures of this world aren’t yet toppled. These are structures which oppress and create untold suffering (have you heard about the food for sex scandals in Liberia, for example?), and yet they remain in place. So, of what use is the gospel then, if these structures continue?
The promise seems to be that we granted the capacity to overcome, living joyful and purposeful lives, right in the midst of suffering. Church history certainly bears this out, as we can see the oppressed and downtrodden of this world living lives of dignity in the midst of their victimization and oppression.Tragically though, in some circles where the church and political/military might have joined hands, this teaching has been twisted to justify the church’s oppression of her converts. The word describing that is ‘colonialism’.
But the church is never invited to be the oppressor – only the liberator. And the sooner we who have means and power begin to view our liberating role holistically, the better off all will be. Where that happens, the church works to bring freedom from addictions, AND freedom from economic enslavement. It works to end the demonic oppression that comes from embracing false gods AND it works hard to end physical oppression as well. This is a calling worth living for!