One of my teachers at the theological seminar told us about a question she had been asked during her stay in the phillipines. One of her friends had asked her how one can preach a gospel of liberation to the wealthy?
What kind of opression do the wealthy suffer?
What kind of liberation can one preach to those that in effect are oppressors themselves?
And most importantly is there really two (or more) different gospels?
Well, i don’t claim to have all the answers, but as i drove home from Stockholm to my home in the western part of Sweden i came to ponder on this mystery and i would like to share what came to my mind.
First of all i want to say that i do believe that the gospel of Jesus is a gospel of liberation, true liberation, not only a mental or spiritual liberation.
To explain the liberation through Christ as a spiritual liberation is the most common interpretation in Sweden taday, and i guess in the whole of the rich western world, but i feel that this interpretation limits the grace of God, as well as letting us relatively wealthy westerners keep a status quo.
By preaching a gospel of spiritual freedom only, the gospel itself is used to keep the poor opressed and to justify the injustice kept in place by the mighty over the downtrodden.
This, i feel, is a grave misuse of the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus is clearly a gospel of liberation in a real sense, spiritual, yes, but also in a very practical sense. The faith through which we are saved will, if it is a genuine faith, show itself in the way we treat the creation and eachother and in that way the real and practical liberation and freedom is as much a result of our faith i Christ our Lord, as is the spiritual liberation.
Christ sets us free in every imaginable way!
Lets look in the bible and reflect upon the word of God.
First at the passage of scripture that was fulfilled with Jesus coming to earth: Luke 4:18-21
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
This scripture does not speak of a spiritual liberation only but stresses the very real and worldly liberation of the poor, the captives and the bruised.
Looking at the works of Jesus i am sure that all of us can remind ourselves about several times when Jesus set free various people. Always through their faith in Him, but the result is more often than not a very real and practical liberation from worldly ailments. I could cite numerous verses of scripture in support of this, but i refarin from doing so at this moment since all of us surely know them already. If needed though, ask me and i shall do so.
Well. If we can establish that the liberation of Jesus is a liberation for the opressed, the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, how then can this be a liberation to the rich opressors?
I find my comfort displayed in several places in the bible, but i want ti direct your attention to two places in particular, starting with Luke 19 and the man Zacchæus.
He is not part of the opressed, but rather in almost every aspect a part of the opressors. Spiritualy he has abandoned the Lord to be able to do what he does, but returning to the Lord in spirit is not what sets him free, liberates him.
No, look at verses 8 and 9: And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
The pattern i clear. Through his faith in Jesus he changes his ways, he refuses to be part of the opressors and in a very real sense becomes liberated as he parts with his luxury and over-consumption. The very same riches that opresses the poor also shackles the rich and stops them from a full life together with Christ!
The second piece of scripture i would like to look at is Matthew 25 and what Jesus says about the sheep and the goats. In those verses as well we learn that the way for the wealthy to find liberation is to in a very real sense distance themselves from riches and parttake in the support of and liberation of the opressed.
In this sense i claim that there can not be different gospels directed to the opressors and the opressed. The gospel, the good news are the same, but the consequences are opposites.
We need to be liberated from our overwhelming riches, we need to accept a genuine dependence of Christ and not rely on our money and posessions and that we cannot do while holding on to our wealth.
This is the good news for the rich, that we can be liberated from our opressive riches!
Most of us does not consider this good news, beacuse we are so fundamentally ensalves by these riches, but it is nevertehless true.
The gospel is the same and opressors and opressed can meet, liberated and free, when we break the power of Mammon and share our possessions equally.
P.S. In order to keep this short i have left out two central pieces of scripture.
The principle of the year of jubilee in the old testament and the principle of shared property in the acts of the apostles.