The stories of Jesus begin in a ditch with a few astrologist-wise-men huddling around teenage parents hastily birthing their baby boy on the run from an angry political leader. It is in moments like these that Christianity locates divinity. Right in the midst of incredible chaos and struggle, we find our God; our God is a God of the oppressed.
When Jesus is back on the scene as an adult, his ministry begins with a declaration from the prophet Isaiah about bringing “good news to the poor” and “setting the oppressed free.” Immediately after this, he calls two uneducated peasant-class fisherman to join his team of misfit-love-radicals to then go heal a leper who has been marginalized for his entire life from the community as his skin rots from his body. Jesus is portrayed as the embodiment of Good News—he is Gospel, and he is incarnating the God the Hebrew people have been talking about all these years. In almost every story, the Christ slices through the walls of division created by race, gender, class, religion, and able-bodied privileges. Jesus’ life shines like a brilliant star through the gospels, illuminating a clear path of justice, humility, and love for God.
This is the life we are to embody in our current day and time. We are to reflect the image of God to the world by reflecting the image of Jesus to the world. “Jesus is the image of the invisible God” whom we make visible by our embodiment of the Christ. The theological word “incarnation” is what activists call “solidarity.” We accompany, share, and journey with the oppressed, we do not only support the oppressed at a distance through charities.
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14
For our church, this has meant studying and responding to creation care by dismantling our fossil fuel addictions, it has meant being a Safe Sanctuary for migrants and low-to-no income families transitioning into a new life here in the United States, and standing boldly for Queer rights within our community and the American Baptist Church at large. These are not opinions that are favorable to take within the dominant culture as fossil fuels are what run our entire economy (and yet are destroying every living species); or with being a Safe Sanctuary for migrants: the Republican presidential nominee is proposing building a Mexican/US border wall with immense party support; and it is still un-safe to be queer in the US as we have seen with recent shootings, hate speeches, and North Carolina bathroom laws. To stand in solidarity with those being crucified (metaphorically speaking) is to stand up for the oppressed; it is to stand in reflection of Jesus and shine God brightly to the world. May we continue to bring the good and sweat Gospel of liberation and justice to this world that needs it oh so bad!
What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God willing and working at what will give God the most pleasure.
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing. (Philippians 2)