Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Set the Oppressed Free!!!!!



In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus Reads the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

I am the fourth daughter born in a family six children. I grew up in a country where girls are often left behind and overlooked. When choosing which children to send to school and which should stay home because of a lack of resources, the girls in my country are usually left behind.
From Haiti, we moved to an urban community where social problems were so many that empowering its girls and women was not on their priority list.

I attended a church who taught both girls and boys the words of God but when they grew older they only meant for the men to lead and not the women. We were taught the pulpit was a sacred place only men can occupy.  Even today, this is still the case.

I then went on to college where I was often the only person of color in lecture halls of hundreds. With no one to validate that I was ok, no one to whisper encouraging messages that I can be strong, that I can speak up and I was valued. No one to show me the ropes; I was on my own to either sink or swim. I swam vigorously as if my life depended on it. Well it kinda did.

These experiences and many others created in me what I call post-oppression disorder, ok I made up the diagnosis. But it should be a legitimate diagnosis.  The closest diagnosis to what I’ve experienced growing up as a black woman living in a patriarchal and racially homogeneous society is PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.

Many people have confused oppression for a lack of self-esteem. The effects of oppression are greater than just a mere expression of lacking self-esteem. I remember a well-meaning friend attempted to address my "lack of self-esteem" by saying something like "we can't believe in you unless you believe in you". Thank you for the "encouragement" but she completely missed it. See oppression is the systematic control of a person’s mind which in return controls their actions. The dictionary defines it as: "Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control. The state of being subject to such treatment or control". Oppression makes one shrink, hold back, live in constant fear, it is debilitating and weakens the will to fight back.

This is greater than me not feeling confident about myself; this is an evil spirit that hovers over a person and once the job of taking over that one’s mind is complete, they are left incapable of pursuing future goals. Even when the systems that controlled this individual are no longer present, they continue to feel its spirit hovering and pressing them down. Once the stamp of oppression has been imprinted, it is quite difficult to undo.  Oppression is an evil that robs us of the precious gift of life. The longer the duration of the oppression, the harder it is to be free from its power. 

Oppression can occur to all individuals. A woman working in a man’s industry.  A daughter living in a house with a controlling father.  A minority living in the midst of a majority culture.  A husband, boyfriend or significant other exercising their power over their mate to intimidate and manipulate.  You get the picture.

I spent years under various forms of systematic oppression.  Systems that either overtly or covertly made it difficult to walk.  Systems that could not see my worth or value.  Systems unaware of their negative impact.

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus Reads the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Yes!!  Jesus came to free the oppressed! 

All throughout the gospels he was lifting the heads of the oppressed.  The Gospel of Luke opens up with the most remarkable example of God lifting the head of the oppressed by allowing Jesus to be born of a young, illiterate, and poor woman who had been oppressed by her cultural of heritage.  And the angel said: “greetings you who are highly favored!” Jesus came to set the oppressed free.  He highly favors the oppressed.

This my friends is how we should attempt to “set the oppressed free”.  Don’t confuse it with a lack of self-esteem, it is more than that.  It is fighting for justice for the oppressed.  It is creating space at the table for the oppressed.  It is the giving of dignity to the oppressed.  It is being aware of the needs of the oppressed.  It is helping them stand tall.

I will never forget the men and women who did as Jesus did and drew me out. Those who took the words in Isaiah 61 seriously.  They knew what the oppressed look like; they sought me out and poured into me.  They loved on me.  They saw my gifts and talents and patiently helped me be more of who God created me to be. They gave when there was nothing in it for them. These men and women were Jesus in the flesh, continuing what he did while living on the earth.

Lord Jesus, help us be about what you are about and set the oppressed free.

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