Friday, February 05, 2010

love for the oppressor

After only a few months of living in our neighborhood, my roommates and I made up a little ditty about the fine folks we pay rent to; It was called, "Mr. Slumlord", and was sung to the tune of Mr. Sandman. In this low-income setting, where we have come with the goal of showing the love of Christ to those we call neighbors, it has been difficult to watch them taken advantage of again and again. Charging outlandish rents (when compared with the assessed value of the actual trailers) and ignoring code requirements in the name of being cheap, our landlords seem to have no problem kicking folks while they're down. Meanwhile, they drive home to a huge house in the richest part of town, and take annual vacations to Hawaii. I don't understand it, and it makes me angry. I want to hate them, and I consistently rip on them. I have somehow come to the conclusion that I should love my neighbors and disdain my landlords. Love the oppressed, hate the oppressor.

It is not the gospel.

That is the message God has been opening my eyes to over the last few weeks. It is true that our landlords actions are wrong, and I am in no way called to condone, or even to remain silent about them. Yet I am unequivocally called to love them. The gospel speaks of a God who sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. It speaks of a Messiah who came for both the oppressor and the oppressed. It speaks of One who, when being brutally nailed to a chunk of wood, asked God to forgive those who were swinging the hammer. "If you love only those who love you, what good is that...?" asks Jesus. And so I begin to ask myself--and to ask God--what it would mean for me to show extravagant love to the oppressor in our midst.

Now it is important that I chose to love simply for love's own sake, but I will admit that I am becoming more aware of the strategy in loving my landlords. They are the people of greatest influence in our neighborhood. If their hearts are changed, and their actions follow suit, then the situation of every single one of our nieghbors could improve. The oppressor may become the advocate, the catalyst for change.

If I am honest, sometimes I think it's actually a kind of righteousness, my hatred for the oppressor in my midst. And indeed, some of David's great laments suggest the same. Yet the one to whom I have chosen to follow, the Christ whose truth I am banking my life on, calls me to love. "Love never fails..." THIS is the gospel. May I learn to live it well.

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