Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed – with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power with no one to comfort them.
…Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…
“Look, the tears of the oppressed.” One can imagine that the writer has witnessed atrocities like this before with sickening regularity. And yet perhaps this is the first time the writer has truly seen the tears of the oppressed, has fully taken in their pain and their subjugation. While there is much to lament, in a new looking and a new seeing there is also a seed of hope: maybe this time this witnessing will lead to change, will make a difference.
A young woman looked and saw the tears of the oppressed. The video she shot on her phone of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was seen all around the world and unleashed a holy rage as people witnessed, and finally acknowledged, what African Americans have experienced for centuries: undue subjugation by oppressive systems in the midst of privileged blind bystanders. Acknowledging this painful reality has led to a global outpouring of overdue compassion both in the form of prayer and protest for justice.
The progression from simply looking to seeing and understanding gives encouragement for us as actors in this earthly reality: God can remove scales from our eyes to witness things in new and liberating ways. As those scales fall, the Holy Spirit provides insight, and also, conviction to respond in new and unfettered ways. One response the churches and communities made was to establish a prayer tent at George Floyd Square, the place of his murder. In this way, these churches and communities were united in offering comfort to those who mourned and were oppressed.
Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes begins with Jesus seeing the crowds. In that crowd he must have seen those who were peacemakers, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, men and women who mourned, and those who hungered for justice. In the beatitudes Jesus not only names people’s struggles, he names what they will be: the children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. As Christians we are called to see the holy struggles of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
How have you engaged with Christian groups addressing oppression in your neighbourhood? How can the churches in your locality come together to better show solidarity with those suffering oppression?
God of justice and grace, remove the scales from our eyes so we can truly see the oppression around us.
We pray in the name of Jesus who saw the crowds and had compassion for them. Amen.