how do you respond to injustice?
let me just say that after i wrote that question…i sat and looked at my computer for a long time. isn’t that the question of the ages? it’s not like a little man sitting in front of his computer monitor…punching away on a few keys…is going to be able to answer that question in a matter of a couple of paragraphs…right? countries…kingdoms…empires have risen and fallen without ever coming to the realization of how to best answer that question. hundreds of millions have died…have been tortured…have been oppressed throughout history…because humanity’s answer to injustice…is violence…anger…hostility…aggression. yes…that’s right…the ANSWER to injustice (in the kingdoms of the world)…is more violence…and it is a tired…worn-out pattern.
what got me thinking about this was our teaching a couple of sunday’s ago at the [living] room. we had gotten to the point in Genesis where Jacob had deceived his blind father…Isaac…and received the blessing that his older brother…Esau…was to receive. this ultimately led to a curse being given to Esau by his father. of course…any way you look at it…this is injustice. but to fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of the injustice…we have to understand the power of a blessing and the power of a curse in Hebrew culture in the 20th century BC.
there is power in a blessing…and in a curse…given by sacred people in relation to God. in ancient Hebrew culture…the blessing was everything. they were not hollow…empty words…just thrown around. they meant something. they were extraordinarily powerful. in fact…while there are many Hebrew synonyms for the word “curse”…there is not one synonym for “blessing,” or in Hebrew…berekah. many believed that a blessing…or a curse…given by a sacred person…had power to influence God for the benefit or the injury of the recipient.
so who are these sacred people that could give a blessing? in ancient Hebrew culture…it was the Patriarchs…Moses…prophets…priests…and fathers. it was understood that these individuals were in close relation to God…and as a result…could extend this providential blessing or curse. in fact…fathers were looked at as the “priests” of their family…which meant that they had a close relationship with God…and could pass along blessings or curses to their sons and basically chart the course for their son’s future.
so when Jacob deceitfully receives the blessing from his father…and Esau receives a curse…we understand that something profound has happened. something that is lasting…something that has the power to completely affect each sons future. that is why we sympathize with Esau in his emotional despair…however…the way Esau chooses to respond to injustice is to avenge his brother by killing him.
my question is this…if there is power in a blessing and a curse…given by sacred people in relation to God…and if the power of blessings and curses can affect individuals for the future…what does this mean for us?
there are really two operatives here: sacred people and relation to God
so what happens when we…as christians…are described as a sacred people…a royal priesthood (1 peter 2:9) that is not just in close relation with God…but actually has God residing in us (2 corinthians 6:16 KJV)? might it mean that God has given us the power to bless and curse people?
as a sacred people…we can use our relation with God…for the benefit or injury of others…through our blessings and curses. in other words…in the face of personal or societal injustice…we…as christians…choose how to respond. do we continue the endless, repetitive cycle of injustice by cursing people? or do we choose another option…the option of a life transformed by the Spirit of God…that chooses to stop the tired, worn-out cycle of injustice by simply blessing? if we are honest about the life and person of Jesus…we have no other choice than to pursue self-sacrificial love that blesses in the face of injustice.
the beauty of a blessing is that it is never to late to be given. twenty years after Jacob fled from his murderous brother esau…they are finally reunited…in one of the most suspenseful accounts in the Bible. as the two brothers approach each other…Jacob believes that Esau is still mad enough to kill him. rather…Esau runs toward Jacob and embraces him. it is never too late to choose to bless.
for those of you reading this…how does this change how you respond to injustice (no matter how insignificant)? further…who have you previously cursed…that you need to bless now? these can’t be just words on a page! this has to take root in our lives and transform how we respond to others. unless we decide that WE are going to stop the cycles by blessing rather than cursing…the cycles continue…and continue…and continue….
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