Saturday, April 13, 2013

Change Your Ways (part 3 of 3)

Therefore, do Christians, recognizing that they are living in a world in which the Creator God’s kingdom on earth has been inaugurated and where Jesus reigns as King over all of this creation that began to be renewed and re-made and set to rights with His Resurrection, oppress foreigners who live in their land?  It may seem like a strange question, because so many Christians are so accustomed to speaking and thinking in terms of being persecuted for faith or hated by the world.  One has to remember that in Judah (and all Israel), foreigners in their land would have been those that were not members of the Creator God’s covenant people.  Likewise, let us consider that believers, before being brought to the place of belief through the activity of the Holy Spirit as exercised through the power of the proclaimed Gospel of Jesus, could certainly be looked upon as foreigners in the midst of the Creator God’s kingdom on earth.       

If that is understood, then the believer must also consider how they find themselves treating those that currently stand outside of the Creator God’s covenant that is marked by belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Ruler of all things?  Are they oppressed?  How are they oppressed?  Is it not the case that believers are the ones that are oppressed?  In a sense, yes, but in the end, believers stand with and serve the One that is King of all, with all rulers subjected to Him.  So rather than being the oppressed ones, believers actually find themselves, like Israel, in the place in which they can become the oppressor, inviting judgment. 

So again, how can believers oppress foreigners---those outside the covenant.  Well, are they shunned?  Does the believers think him or herself better than those that are not inside the covenant through belief in Jesus?  Do believers isolate themselves from non-believers?  Do they separate themselves from who and what they speak of as “the world,” and by doing so, think that they are living holy and righteous lives that are pleasing to God?  Do they merely shine as lights for each other, while leaving the “foreigners” groping about in an oppressive and chaotic darkness?  Do they judge and condemn them for engaging in those things that are subjectively labeled as “sin,” and “preach” against “sin” rather than being the lights of God’s intention by preaching in word and in deed the message of the Gospel (Jesus is Lord), and so find themselves possibly engaging in what it is that their God finds far more heinous and deserving of His curse? 

In addition, the covenant God says to stop oppressing “children who have lost their fathers, and women who have lost their husbands” (7:6b).  The covenant God’s people had an obligation to orphans and widows.  Not caring for them was the same as oppressing them.  In the midst of all of the worthwhile endeavors in ministry as the renewed Israel in Christ, that is, the Creator God’s re-constituted covenant people, it’s worth asking how believers are doing in this regard?  Along with the directive concerning the oppression of foreigners, orphans, and widows, the Creator God says, “Stop killing innocent people in this land.  Stop paying allegiance to other gods” (7:6c).  The Creator God says that all of these things “will only bring about your ruin” (7:6d). 

Believers are always quick to emphasize the idolatry of the covenant God’s people that brought judgment to Israel and Judah, but it comes last in this listing of offenses against their God that will bring ruin and exile.  Idolatry would naturally grow out of the oppressions here recounted and the killing of innocent people, because forsaking that which was their God’s purpose for them, that God’s people would be determined to find a god in whose image they could actually believe themselves to have been made, and who would sanction their oppression. 

The Creator God’s message to His people is “If you stop doing these things, I will allow you to continue to live in this land which I gave to your ancestors as a lasting possession” (7:7).  If Jesus-followers, as people under the covenant of belief in the Gospel (Jesus, the crucified and resurrected man from Nazareth is Israel’s Messiah and Lord of all creation) desire to have a continued place in God’s kingdom on earth---in the land that He has given to His image-bearers and wise stewards as a lasting possession---then this passage from Jeremiah should serve as a clarion call to the duties of their vocation.  Is there a need to change some ways and to start doing what is right?         

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