After the Civil War, former slaves began to work in our country and make economic and political headway. As they began making progress, some people, especially in the south got worried. The began to feel like these former slaves were taking away what belonged to them. They began attacking those former slaves and a terrible period in the history of our country started. Black people were murdered in cold blood – lynched is the official term. There were lynching parties where people celebrated the killings of other human beings. The worst period of time was the 1890’s and it was then that Ida B. Wells documented the fact that lynchings were not a sudden outburst of fury, but a calculated attack on black people who were becoming successful, and the white people who supported them. It was a national crime; a national shame designed to keep a group of people under control.
People and groups who are in power don’t like seeing other groups even begin to gain power or independence. Egypt was often a battleground with new Pharaohs taking over from old Pharaohs after a military coup. Joseph had saved Egypt from a terrible famine and the Israelites were well received because of that. They flourished in their own little corner of Egypt. But then, politics happened and a new pharaoh came along. He saw the Israelites flourishing, and got worried. “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us.’ … So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.” (Exodus 1:8-9, 11)
Oppression, either by individuals or by groups, is based on the fear that someone else may gain power and the oppressors don’t like that idea. It may be an official policy of a country or organization that singles out a particular group. Christians in many areas of the world feel this oppression. Christians in many areas of the world have oppressed others. People whose skin color is different than the ruling majority may experience it as well. One common thread of oppression throughout the ages is that those who are oppressing others are afraid that those other people will actually overtake them in political or economic power: in short, they feel that the people they are oppressing will prove to be more powerful than they are.
There is no excuse for Christians to oppress others. We are to live in the love of Christ and perfect love casts out all fear. Still we see individual examples of oppression in the Christian community: racism still rears its ugly head; marriages often become battlegrounds where husbands oppress their wives making them feel like second class citizens. We are called to battle against any oppression we see. There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus died for each person and His grace is offered to all who come to Him. Dare I say that we are all immigrants in the kingdom of heaven? I say that because no one is born into the kingdom of heaven, but anyone can be born again into God’s kingdom. We still see racism and other forms of oppression thriving today. When it’s a matter of national policy, it may be difficult to change it overnight, but, by eliminating oppression in our own lives and sharing the love of God for all people, we begin the process of destroying oppression in our world.
Lord, remind me of my great privileges today. I am Your child. I am a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Let me share those privileges with others and help them to know how they might experience them also.
Daily Devotion by Bob James