I was challenged in an unusual way (for me) this week. I was challenged through the words of a rapper-poet called Micah Bournes – (Here’s a link if you want to read the full lyrics and watch and read his explanations of them: https://micahbournes.com/atlt-101/track15.) But I want to look at one section here that really challenged me:
“The picture we paint in our minds
Is a far cry from the reality of heaven
When the saints go marching in
It will not be a parade of the almost perfect
God does not reserve grace for those
Who only need a little bit
The healthy are in no need of a doctor
The Healer is for the sick…”
Till this point I was with him, nodding along, but the next bit made me stop, and think: Is what he says ok? Do I agree or believe it?
“Heaven will be a freakshow
Promiscuous young men will embrace
The virgin priests who molested them
And their hearts will both be pure
How amazing, is grace”
We, the English are known for backing the underdog. We’re all for the ideas surrounding supporting the poor, the orphan and the widow – that we often hear about in sermons. However, this line grated on me:
“Promiscuous young men will embrace
The virgin priests who molested them.”
Because when we talk of the perpetrators of oppression, suffering or violence we talk in despising, harsh and hateful ways. This picture seems wrong in so many ways.
But it reminded me of another poem – found in Isaiah 11 and I want to remind us of verses 6 to 9:
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
The justice we read about in Isaiah is restorative justice – not the punitive justice we are more used to. The heaven that is described in this passage fits the one that Micah Bournes describes. The oppressors living in peace with their victims.
This isn’t to say we throw these people into rooms with each other now and expect them to get on, and disregard the pain of the victims and the oppressed.
Donald spoke in his talk on John 4:1-9 about how Jesus was a barrier breaker – how he related with those that society despised, and how we can model that ourselves – as we seek to lead and create peace by breaking down barriers between those who are enemies in some way. (It’s worth going and listening to that if you are struggling with this whole concept, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/DXqmYx8tS_k )
But what it shows us is just how amazing God’s grace is. He really did come for the wretched:
“Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.”
– and if that is true – then heaven will be a freakshow – because God allows for the repentance of the molester as well as the molested.
And what this does is it gives us all an invitation to have hope in a better future – where, whether we feel oppressed and victimised, or whether we feel hopeless due to our unhealthy desires and addictions – there is hope in a future where we will be free from these, where we will live in peace with all those around us. And so there is no need for despair – because there is hope!
And for those of us that maybe don’t overly feel we belong to either the oppressed or the oppressor group – it is good to remember that none of us are far from belonging to them – a little reflection and research soon highlights those areas where we have been complicit with oppression – often in systems where we feel we can’t avoid being the oppressor as we are compelled by our shopping addictions, or we feel we can’t help but be oppressed by systems that make it impossible to do anything but go into an institutionalised businesses where we are treated as numbers rather than humans.
Our job now is to see how we can begin the kingdom work of being peacemakers (“blessed are the peacemakers!”) – which means repenting of our own part in this broken world, accepting God’s grace, and then extending the same grace in the most unlikely places and to the most unlikely people.