July 20, 2015 Aaron Ross

Loving the Oppressed…. and the Oppressor.

When we watch movies, TV, or even read a good book, there is one thing we love to do: hate the villain. It is engrained in us, even from a very early age. We want the hero to succeed and we want the villain to fail. This disdain grows worse as time passes. No longer do we not just want the hero to win, we want the villain destroyed. We cheer and hope for their great demise.

The movie Taken serves as a good example of this. The film helped expos the huge issue and evil of sex trafficking, hitting us in the face with the reality that it happens in the world we live in today.

So what do we do throughout the entire movie? We cheer and hope beyond all hope that not only will Liam Neeson save his child, but also that he will kill the people involved with the disgusting, horrible, dehumanizing industry of sex trafficking.

While a desire for justice is a good thing, what does our desire to see people destroyed really show about us?

Simply put, it brings to light how much more like Christ we really need to be. God loves the oppressor just as much as He loves the oppressed, no matter how terrible that oppression is.

While God hates the injustice of human trafficking, He loves the person who is forcing men, women and children into sex trafficking. And that should give us hope.

To say all sin is the same can warp our understanding of morality. However, all sin, no matter what it is, can hurt, strain or even break our relationship with God. We all, no matter what we have done, deserve the punishment our sins require. But no matter how far, how bad, how destructive within the creation of God we have been, we can never do anything so bad as to lose or even lessen God’s love for us (Romans 8:38-39).

How we think, how we speak, and how we act must reflect that. God has called us to love the person who is perpetrating oppression just as much as we love and fight for those who are being oppressed. This is no easy task. We are trained to loathe them, even to hate them for what they do. But when we hate them, we hate someone who is loved by Christ.

As Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48 (from The Message version):

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives His best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re Kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

With that in mind, here are a few ways we can start to change how we think about the oppressor:

Stop thinking the oppressors are beyond hope

Stop categorizing people as good and evil, as those who need saving and those who need to be punished. When we stop thinking of people as if they are the pure embodiment of evil, we might begin to open our hearts toward those who God is desperate to bring unto Him.

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2 that “[God] wants not only us but everyone saved, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered Himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. “

Pray to see the oppressors as God sees them

Even though “they” deserve retribution, “they” deserve to be thrown in jail with the key thrown into the deepest darkest abyss; we have to stop desiring that for anyone. We should desire what God desires; that they would come to a saving relationship with God. They are people who need God to change their minds and hearts.

Does that mean they should be allowed to do whatever they want? Of course not. Isaiah 61:8 tells us, “For I, the LORD, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing.”

There is a tension between grace and justice that walks a thin line. Grace teaches us to forgive, yet justice is needed. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Let us do our best to stop the evil in this world. After all, as Edmund Burke so often reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

But let us also fight for everyone who needs God. After all, we all deserve the same punishment for our sins, from the worst of us, to the best. Again, Paul reveals to us in Romans 3 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Pray for the grace to forgive

As Christians and as people who strive to be like Christ, let’s actually be like Christ and work for the reconciliation of ALL people to God.

When we read of stories about those who forgive and befriend the person who killed a family member, we see people who are truly living like Christ. Those stories wreck us, because it is so outside of what we understand. We often think in those times “I could never do that,” and I pray no one ever has to, but shouldn’t we strive to be just like this? Let’s ask God to give us the grace to forgive, regardless of what someone has done, to us, or to those who cannot help themselves.

It is time that we, as Christians, love the oppressor just as much as we love the oppressed.

We must still fight for justice, but it is time that we strive to help the oppressor find Christ and to be reconciled unto Him. Pray that we can all learn to love just like Christ does. Let us work together to bring both justice and grace to all who are in need of Christ (and that is all of us).


This post was originally written for and appears on relevantmagazine.com. You can find the original post written by the author here.

Image was used by permission from Austin Allen, and undergraduate Senior at Southeastern University. The image was taken by Austin during his recent trip to India working with impoverished children and women rescued from sex trafficking.

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About the Author

Aaron Ross Aaron Ross is Assistant Professor of Theology at Southeastern University and a PhD student at the University of Birmingham (UK). He is also the senior editor of ECCLESIAM. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys running and being an avid movie watcher.
  • Austin Bailey

    Isaiah 58-59 even depicts God’s own people as acting as oppressors. I am glad they were loved too.

    • Aaron Gabriel Ross

      Austin,

      It really is interesting how often the Bible speaks to the issues of the oppressors, desiring justice and grace simultaneously. It might not be bad to explore how we as Christians acts as oppressors (not just the easy exploration of things like the Crusades either).

      • Theodore Skovranek II

        Socially here in America we see the continued battles in the realm of marriage, and abortion. We can pass as many laws as we want, but to a non believing majority, those laws do little in saving them from their selves. Until we can change their hearts, laws do nothing, but become barriers to them receiving the gift of Christ. By using tactics of guilt and shame, of those that don’t hold the Christian values true, we are the oppressors, and claiming to be oppressed by them and their will, is to me disingenuous because the tactics of manipulation failed.

  • Elizabeth Lawrence-Murdock

    In my life, I have found it very hard,even impossible at times to pray for the oppressors. Being a victim, yet also being the oppressor.Even praying for myself when I have taken the position of oppressor. Somehow,fully believing that I am in the right even deserving of this,vengance. Yet, by being enlightened by the action of Jesus and the unmistakable change by the Holy Spirit with in me.”For He has created a new being within me.” With this; I have a battle within myself of the oppressor and the victim.

    • Aaron Ross

      That is a great idea, Elizabeth. Like Steve noted, I think there are definite times we as Christians take the stance of the “oppressor”. May we begin to show the same grace to oppressors we receive often in being the oppressors ourselves!

  • Theodore Skovranek II

    Child molesters, in the past I had to ponder how I would deal with someone that I knew was convicted of, and admitted to molesting children. In the circle of people we knew, I lost several because I chose to try to show some Christian sympathy towards, while he hated Christianity, I had hope that I could be a witness towards him. I don’t know for a fact, but I believe that someone that tossed me to the curve with them, relayed the message that I was trying to show him a better Christian example, and he severed ties to me. It saddens me that other people who call themselves Christians, would reject another person, who for all intents and purposes, had fulfilled their conviction to the courts, and was no longer required to register as a sex offender, and try to wash their hands clean of the person.