God hears the prayers of the oppressed

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The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
Psalm 103:6

God is moving in the United States of America. As Christians, have we discerned where the Holy Spirit is taking us? Are we aligning ourselves with the redemptive plan of God?

In an article published this week, Robert Jones, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, wrote that white Christians are consistently more likely to deny systemic racism than religiously unaffiliated white Americans. “Our fellow African American citizens, and indeed the entire country, are waiting to see whether we white Christians can finally find the humility and courage and love to face the truth.”

I have heard white Christians suggest that the upheaval in the United States today is because as a nation, we have turned away from God and have removed prayer from schools and society. We need Jesus, they say. This sentiment reminds me of the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). There is no peace without justice. Justice and righteousness are central to the heart of God.

What we are seeing today is the cumulative effect of centuries of oppression and discrimination. Dressing the wound of racism with platitudes of returning to God is a misdiagnosis of the root of the upheaval. A misdiagnosis can be fatal when the illness is terminal.

For Black Christians, the fragile flicker of hope in a just, equitable life in the U.S. has been rekindled. In a gorgeous essay written two days before his death, Rep. John Lewis wrote, “While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.”

The centuries of prayers for God’s intervention to end their oppression have been heard. America has not turned from Christianity – America was never Christian because it has always been marred by the ugliness of racial oppression. God’s wrath burns against racism and God’s heart is with the oppressed.

God is truly healing our land, and it is painful but necessary to cut deep in order to remove the cancer of racism from our marrow. Our culture is embedded with racism, and we have believed the lies of the enemy that have dehumanized and dishonored the Black community.

Jesus’ heart is broken by the discrimination and violence perpetrated against BIPOC, who bear God’s image and are endued with the holy calling of dominion and care that all of God’s children are called to. The time is NOW to follow the Holy Spirit in the work of dismantling white supremacy and redeeming American society to be equitable for all.

It is wrong for white Christians to cast themselves as the persecuted minority here in America. Beginning with the Catholic Church’s “Doctrine of Discovery” that baptized global colonization and its’ accompanying atrocities, to the American church’s sanctification of chattel slavery and advocacy for segregation, up to this day’s white Evangelical racial resentment, we have much to lament. In reading the biblical narrative, white Christians ought to identify ourselves with the powerful Egyptian empire, Babylonian empire, or Roman empire, rather than the captive Israelites. We have been the oppressors, not the oppressed.

The Bible is clear where God’s heart lies on the issue of justice for racial oppression.

Isaiah’s prophecy described the agenda the Messiah would champion:

Isaiah 42:1-4
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
“He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

When Jesus became flesh and dwelt with us, he announced his earthly ministry with this mission statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18-19

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus shared the values of his kingdom with these declarations:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to desire justice for those who have been wronged. The Bible exhorts us to seek justice throughout its pages (this is a small sample of examples):

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” (Psalm 106:3)

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

These are my thoughts today as we continue to reckon with the centuries-long history of racial oppression in our country. Our God is our Redeemer, the great Physician who is healing us and bringing us closer and closer to the time when our Prince of Peace will rule with justice and mercy. God hears the prayers of the oppressed, God’s heart is for the brokenhearted, and God is always healing his beloved Creation. Be encouraged. We have no reason to fear and all reason to hope. God is good, all the time.


Here are a couple more excellent links I encountered recently:

Climbing the Mountain of Injustice – sermon by Austin Channing Brown (I ugly cried listening to this – SO powerful!)
Justice Too Long Delayed – by Christianity Today editor Timothy Dalrymple

And I linked to these articles above but want to make sure you don’t miss them:

Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious – Robert Jones
Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation – Rep. John Lewis
Racial resentment varies widely among religious groups – Ryan Burge

White Christianity has been complicit in the subjugation of our Black brothers and sisters. We must lament our racial sins and demonstrate true repentance.

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