If you have ever gone to the aid of an oppressed Christian, maybe the victim of abuse, and sought help from others, or tried to gather witnesses to approach someone who has sinned against you, you have probably heard responses like these:
“Leave me out of it.”
“I want nothing to do with it.”
“Not getting involved…”
“But that is none of my business…”
Oh but it is your business Kermit the Frog!! Put down your tea and read the Bible! In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul tells us that,
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Responses like these are all too common from professing believers in the church. People refusing to get involved because it will be uncomfortable. Perhaps they are afraid of repercussions, perhaps they are afraid of being the next victim. Oh they have seen the wickedness, but they either ignore it and turn their backs, feigning a blind eye, or they downplay it.
“What she did wasn’t that bad…”
“Aren’t you overreacting?”
They have heard the lies, the gossip, the slander. They have witnessed the abuse. They have witnessed the sinner in their sin. They know the sin, whatever it might be…but they refuse to get involved.
“Nope. I can’t do it.”
They refuse to stand with the oppressed, with the victims, for fear of their own comfort being ruined…and by refusing to stand with the oppressed, they, by default, stand with the oppressor.
In Ephesians 5, Paul writes,
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Paul not only tells us to have nothing to do with deeds of darkness, not to gossip about them, but also to expose them! If a Christian refuses to expose a sinner, an abuser, a liar, a reviler, a gossiper, when they know the truth, they are standing with them. They are helping to cover up the sin with darkness.
Frankly, the church has a woeful track record here. It seems that when push comes to shove, very few professing Christians are actually willing to stand alongside their oppressed brothers or sisters. Especially when standing beside that person might cost something. What I have noticed, is that when it is going to cost something, these people always start up with the same old nonsense, “Oh that is just her, she is like that, you should just get over it,” or “Nobody pays her any heed anyway, everyone knows what she is like…” or they all of the sudden become dispensers of some weird, un-biblical form of hyper-grace…”Oh just forgive him, and move on, it’s what Jesus would do”…
No it’s not.
Jesus does not just forgive and move on.
Biblical forgiveness never occurs without true repentance. And what is true repentance? It is naming the sin, admitting to your victim and to the Lord the exact nature of your sin, claiming it as your own, without minimizing it in any way, without shifting blame off yourself, and then forsaking that sin and turning to Christ. Turning to Christ because Christ alone is worthy of your repentance, not because it will be better for the sinner to “repent.” A truly repentant person will never expect forgiveness, they will never make demands, and they are ready to accept all consequences related to their sin. They forsake their sin and cling to Jesus.
Often, in the Church, to stand with the oppressed means that you might become oppressed as well. In cases of spousal abuse, sadly it is often the victim who gets villainized, and painted as the one who is breaking the marriage by leaving an abusive situation. When that happens, when the oppressor has the backing of people in the church…that is a scary thing, and a lot of people are simply too cowardly to take that stand. And yet the Lord has clearly told us in His Word that if we are not willing to stand with His people, especially when they are oppressed, suffering or in need, then we do not really belong to Him. That is right. If we refuse to get involved, if we refuse to stand with a victim of abuse, if we refuse to call sin sin, then we are not His children.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (Matthew 25:41-45)
Those who love God, love those whom God loves. That means also standing with the oppressed. That means exposing sin, not covering it up, or downplaying it, or refusing to get involved because it might go badly for you. If someone who claims the name of Christ, will not pay the price required to stand with the oppressed, then Christ will reject them on that Day when He comes to judge the living and the dead. Refusing to stand with the oppressed is, as Christ Himself said in the above text, the same as denying Christ Himself. And on this matter of confessing or denying Christ, the Lord is painfully clear:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
If it doesn’t cost us to follow Christ, are we really following him? Following Him means we all have to decide just whose side we are on. The oppressor or the oppressed. There is no middle ground here. It is your business. It is my business.
Christ is on the side of the oppressed. Are we?
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! ~ 2 Timothy 4:16
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.” ~Ecclesiastes 4:1-3