“De Oppresso Liber”

clip_image002 “De oppresso liber”, commonly translated “to liberate the oppressed” is the motto of U.S. Army Special Forces. The phrase stems from the exploits of World War II Office of Strategic Services Jedburgh/Sussex Teams operating behind the lines in France. Colonel Aaron Bank, father of United States Army Special Forces, and his teams enabled the French Resistance to grow and oppose the occupying German Army.

Although the phrase “to liberate the oppressed” might not be an exact grammatical and literal translation, the point is well made. Liberating oppressed peoples has always been a primary goal of U.S. Special Forces.

Perhaps one of the greatest symbols of oppression in the history of mankind was the Berlin Wall. We were stationed in Berlin between 1984 and 1987. When we were stationed in Berlin in the late 80’s, we were able to capture a picture of a small part of the Wall that depicted the goal of German people living on both sides:

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The need to liberate oppressed peoples is nothing new, nor is it a goal or mission reserved for the temporal realm.

God raised up the Prophet Isaiah to accuse the leaders of a rebellious nation of not caring for the oppressed and remind them of their obligations as rulers:

“Learn to do well:
seek judgment,
relieve the oppressed
judge for the fatherless,
defend the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

Perhaps the most significant of the church fathers, Augustine of Hippo recognized that liberating those who are oppressed was one of the solemn responsibilities of pastoral ministry. In a sermon celebrating the anniversary of his ordination as a Bishop he eloquently described how he saw his duties:

“The turbulent have to be corrected,
The faint-hearted cheered up,
The weak supported;
The Gospel’s opponents need to be refuted,

Its insidious enemies guarded against;
The unlearned need to be taught,
The indolent stirred up,
The argumentative checked;

The proud must be put in their place,
The desperate set on their feet,
Those engaged in quarrels reconciled;
The needy have to be helped,

The oppressed to be liberated,
The good to be encouraged,

The bad to be tolerated;
All must be loved.”

(St. Augustine, Sermon 340,3: CChr.SL 194, 920.)

Oppression has many faces and affects all levels of society. The list of oppressors and oppressed people groups is too long to try and list here. At the same time, alleviating varying types of oppression (or perceived oppression), both from America’s past and existing today, has become a priority and matter of debate in secular society as well as the church. ‘Social justice’ issues have been declared by some to be integral to the message of the gospel itself instead of an outcome of having embraced the gospel that Christ died for our sins.

All of the above aside for a moment, I would like to ask you a question, and here it is:

“What is the single most dangerous and cruel form of oppression that has existed throughout the history of mankind and still exists today?”

I’ll give you a hint or two.

  • It exists in every country/nation on Earth and has affected every person that has ever been born since the fall of Adam.
  • It’s not oppression between people or groups of people,
  • It has eternal consequences.

(Insert 30 seconds of quiz show music……….)

And the answer is……………SIN.

The greatest oppression that has ever existed in the history of humanity is sin’s oppression of every single person born after the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve were created with a desire to please God, but also with the ability to disobey. Disobey they did, with disastrous results to follow and affect everyone ever born thereafter.

The Bible tells us about those who are lost to God and separated from Christ by sin:

The lost are slaves to sin.

“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness.” (Rom 6:16)

The lost are also spiritually dead.

The Apostle Paul told the believers in Ephesus that

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—” (Eph 2:1-2)

The lost are condemned already.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

That’s a really short list of passages that speak of the oppressed condition of all those separated from God and apart from Christ by sin. Perhaps the harshest description of the lost in the entire Bible is something else Paul told believers in Ephesus:

The lost are the “children of wrath”.

“…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3)

No earthly oppression can ever compare to the oppression caused by the sin that is in the world that resulted from the disobedience of the first Adam. And there are many who live their happy and content lives oblivious of their condition in abject slavery to that sin.

But there is GOOD news! We don’t have to despair!

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

This is the very reason Christ came to Earth so long ago – “to seek and save that which was lost”. That was His mission on earth – the mission that was announced to His earthly father Joseph:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)

“De Opresso Liber”

Is God Reckless?

I saw that question on a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, connected to the recently released Bethel Music song “Reckless Love”, written by Cory Asbury. Apparently it hit the top of some Christian music charts but has also garnered quite a bit of dialogue, some of which is helpful and some decidedly not so much.

Nevertheless, the above question is quite valid and deserving of discussion, at least when examined in light of what scripture teaches us about the nature of God’s love.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so
Good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Chorus]
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
[Verse 2]
When I was your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so
Good to me
When I felt no worth
You paid it all for me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Bridge]
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

To be fair, the song speaks well of God’s love, calling it overwhelming and never-ending. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. God, through Christ the good Shepherd, seeks and saves the lost. God loves his own even when they are his enemies living in rebellion against him. And Jesus did pay the ultimate price, sinless and underserving, dying in place of sinners – absorbing the full weight of God’s just wrath against our sin.

But is the love of God for his own reckless’? The song’s claim that it is deserves closer examination, but not from our gut level emotions, which seem to have prompted the ongoing banter both, pro and con. We need to examine what the Bible has to say about God’s love to determine if the ‘reckless’ adjective is as well-deserved as the other descriptions “Reckless Love” presents to us. After all, it’s the adjective used in the song’s title and the author’s main point!

Here is the author’s response to many of the comments made about his song, as an attempt to clarify what he meant by calling God’s love ‘reckless’:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Again, to be fair, there is truth in this explanation, especially the descriptions of what God’s love is NOT. It’s the summary of God’s love that is problematic for many, including me:

“He (God) simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Is that a Biblically supportable description of God’s love? While there is much in scripture that would answer with a resounding ‘no’, we offer a short passage from the book of Romans that should settle the matter:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

That short passage speaks of intentionality, not recklessness. It describes deliberate actions of God toward his people! It describes the people of God from a point in eternity past and God’s foreknowledge through ultimate glorification in the presence of God for the rest of eternity.

I also offer to you that both major schools of theology (Calvinist & Arminian) are in complete agreement concerning God’s love being intentional and not at all reckless! Either God ‘foreknew’ his people in such an intimate way that he sovereignly changes their human will, causing their greatest desire to be to receive Christ when confronted with their sin (Calvinists), or he foreknew the ‘free will’ decisions many would make for Christ at some point in their lives.

Either way, God’s love is not ‘reckless’, as Corey Asbury describes recklessness! And because the song’s lyrics speak so much truth about God’s love, I cannot help but wonder why he thinks that God loves recklessly. It’d s popular sentiment among certain segments of evangelicalism. And that saddens me. Is my criticism justified? I believe it is. I also know that we should pray for Corey, his spiritual growth and ministry. Add to that prayer the thousands of young people who have been and are being terribly deceived by all the false teaching that Bethel Redding represents.