Posts Tagged oppression

Everything is Broken

I’m going to do a psalmist thing and complain for a minute.

Everything is broken. I’m surrounded by malfunctions, glitches, short circuits, cracks, wear, tear, and all-consuming entropy.  Can I just give you a brief list? My dishwasher leaks, my clothes-washer is making a loud grinding noise, there’s a gutter falling off the side of my house, the front storm door is warped and can only stay closed by being locked, the power locks in my van’s door don’t work, the CD player in my car is broken, the speedometer/odometer in my car is broken, my acoustic guitar neck is warped and it’s “fretting out”, our laptop runs too slow, our home stereo speaker has a short and cuts in and out, even my dog has a malfunctioning pancreas and he has to have enzymes in his food or he would get “the runs” so bad that he would starve to death…you get the picture. I bet you have a similar list in your head that you can review of everything that’s broken in your life.

Of course, people are broken as well. We have fears, anxiety, pet peeves, grudges, prejudices, blind-spots, disorders, dysfunctions, and disagreements. Our hearts seem to constantly go back to the same sins and the same idols. We can’t ever seem to get over these persistent dysfunctions and move on with our lives.

Our culture also has systemic brokenness that we live with everyday and take for granted. The problem of racism, the system of prejudice and inequality based on race, comes to mind as a brokenness that many of us passively endorse without doing anything to fix it. We let the brokenness remain and throw up our hands in defeat as if to say, “I didn’t break this, so why should I have to fix it?”

This morning, my complaint about the little things that are broken in my life (the locks, appliances, etc.) made me think about why we allow brokenness like racism to persist, year after year, without doing anything to fix it.

  • It’s too expensive to fix. My family has a lot of broken stuff but the most frequent response to the problem is that it would cost way too much to fix. The solution is there but we don’t have the resources to put the solution into action.
  • It’s permanently broken. Usually, this is a cheap toy that happens to become one of our kid’s favorite things to play with. Then inevitably, it breaks so bad that no super-glue or tape or whatever could fix it. It has to go in the trash forever because it’s just too far gone. Just get over it!
  • It doesn’t bother me, so why should I fix it. We have a light switch in our bathroom that is wired wrong. It turns on when it’s down and off when it’s up. Of course, this is not really a problem to me at all.  Why risk electrocuting myself when it’s not really an issue?
  • If I’m honest, I prefer the brokenness. My CD player is broken in my car and that really was a bother at first. I couldn’t stand rolling around town in silence listening to the weird engine noises (probably more brokenness). Then I started listening to podcasts with an iPod and little portable speaker. I found that I much preferred this to listening to the radio or my CD collection. Let the CD player stay broken because now I have “This American Life” whenever I desire.

These excuses for brokenness are also at the root of why I allow sin to persist in my heart or we allow oppression to persist in our culture.

Now, it’s time to stop complaining. I can stop complaining because in Christ, all things are being made new. The brokenness will not become LORD over all because there is already a LORD over all who is in the business of restoration and redemption. The promises in scripture are the antidote to all our excuses to allow brokenness to persist.

  • There is nothing that is too expensive. I can’t change this because I don’t have the resources. I can’t even stop my own sin, so how can I ever expect to bring cultural change. However, we have in the riches of Christ all that we need for life and godliness. He has paid the full price, and in him, we have access to resurrection power. We have an overflowing bank account of grace and peace that we can access at anytime. We might have to give up our life in the process but even in that, to die is gain because of the riches of Christ.
  • There is nothing that is permanently broken. I want to give up on the brokenness. Many times, I would rather throw away a broken relationship rather than do what is necessary to fix it. But, Christ will never give up on any brokenness. We have a promise that there will one day be a new heavens and a new earth. There is nothing in this world that Christ cannot redeem by the power of the gospel. The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Jesus is the ultimate in “green” living. There’s nothing broken that he won’t recycle into a new creation. There’s no trash in the kingdom.
  • There is nothing that I can ignore because it doesn’t bother me. I might be able to close myself off from oppression or down-play my sin through denial. But, the Lord promises to discipline those that he loves. He has promised that though injustice seems to go unchecked, there is a righteous judge in heaven who will bring vindication to the meek and reckoning to the wicked. The Lord is committed enough to righteousness and loves me enough as his child that he will not allow me to remain comfortable with my sin or comfortable with oppression. Any branches that do not produce fruit will be pruned and thrown into the fire.
  • There is no brokenness that will actually benefit me. I can’t always say that I despise my sin. There are times when it feels so easy and right to give my heart over to sin. Also, I can’t always say that I despise oppression. In fact, as a white person in the US, I receive many benefits that I didn’t even work for as a result of racism. This brokenness appears to benefit, protect, and advance my personal well-being. However, I can trust that the Lord Jesus has promised that his Spirit will transform and renew my mind to be able to discern his perfect and pleasing will. He has promised that he will lead me into paths of righteous for his names sake. In the light of His word, I will know all truth and wisdom and the scales will fall from eyes to behold the wretched vanity of sin and glorious beauty of grace and peace.

Everything is broken, but in Christ all things are made new.

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O Church Arise

This weekend, I’ll be participating in the Sanctity of Human Life Service at Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church on Sunday at 6pm. Dr. Cortez Cooper will be speaking. Doug Merkey has organized the service. Doug is the president of Churches for Life. The abortion battle in our country has become such a politically charged thing that I was hesitant to get my hands dirty in the mess that surrounds it. However, I am convinced that life begins at conception and that murdering innocent life is always oppression and injustice. God’s kingdom is about freedom from oppression and freedom from injustice, so I can’t stand back and withdraw from the issue. More mercy!

When I was a kid, I participated in a “pro-life” rally. I remember being on the side of the road holding a sign. I came away from that experience with a pretty bitter taste in my mouth for political rallies. Since that time, I think that the right-wing political agenda for pro-life issues has been a bit of a let down. I’ve been disillusioned to the idea that an evangelical political coalition can elect a president/congressman/governor who will do any good for this issue. Unfortunately, I think that my feelings and experiences are probably shared by many of my generation on this topic.

In planning the service, I had some good talks with Doug about the need for the church to reengage with the fight. Doug’s perspective seems to be that the sanctity of life is not a “fad” issue that the church can cast off like a “what would Jesus do?” bracelet. But, the political systems of this world are not a replacement for the church, and the work of the kingdom of God is much bigger and yet more intimate than any supreme court decision would ever be. Doug’s charge to the church is to reenter the fray.

Dale Zarlenga recommended this excellent Keith Getty/Stuart Townend tune for the service which captures a lot of what I’m trying to say. The metaphore of the church as a army preparing for battle is there. However, the battle is not about the strength of our wisdom or power, but about the upside-down wisdom and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Here’s the lyrics:

O Church Arise

Verse 1
O church arise and put your armour on
Hear the call of Christ our Captain
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies
An army bold whose battle cry is Love
Reaching out to those in darkness

Verse 2
Our call to war to love the captive soul
But to rage against the captor
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valour
When faced with trials on every side
We know the outcome is secure
And Christ will have the prize for which He died
An inheritance of nations

Verse 3
Come see the cross where love and mercy meet
As the Son of God is stricken
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet
For the Conqueror has risen
And as the stone is rolled away
And Christ emerges from the grave
This victory march continues till the day
Every eye and heart shall see Him

Verse 4
So Spirit come put strength in every stride
Give grace for every hurdle
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful
As saints of old still line the way
Retelling triumphs of His grace
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When with Christ we stand in glory

This is Tim Huges’ performance.

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