God's Rights

I’ve been wrestling with an idea lately. I’ve been reading The Option for the Poor in Christian Theology edited by Daniel G Groody (pronounced Grody) and in the second chapter, written by Elsa Tamez she presents the idea of “God’s rights.”

Now, as she says, this idea might seem “ridiculous” at first, but consider it. The crucifixion of Jesus was not an just a conceptual event which happened in some spiritual plain. We can easily miss it when we talk of Jesus “dying for our sins”—we miss that something terribly unfair and oppressive was actually taking place. Jesus, a Jewish man living under the rule of the oppressive Roman Empire, was unfairly tried, flogged, mocked, and unjustly murdered on a cross. Now, this is not something very unique either historically or currently. Oppressed people all over the globe and throughout history have been abused, mistreated, unjustly placed in the margins of society, and unfairly sentenced death. This is not unlike what happened to Jesus, or maybe I should say what happened to Jesus is not unlike what has happened and is happening to the poor all over the world. Jesus’ rights were being “trampled.” The difference, however, is according to our Christology, Jesus death is essentially God’s. Jesus on the cross is God on the cross, this has been affirmed by theologians throughout church history, including Martin Luther. Jesus, as God on the cross, is being unfairly and unjustly screwed over. In the trampling of Jesus rights, God’s rights are being trampled. On the flip side, though Jesus is God he is also human and in his solidarity with humanity he is representative of the poor. Essentially Jesus on the cross is “the representative of both sides: he is the representative of humanity in relation to the poor, marginalized, excluded, and persecuted, and in relation to God.” (p.48) Jesus brings these two sides together. “Jesus unites the rights of excluded human beings and divine rights.” We see the rights of God in the rights of the poor and the oppressed. When people’s rights are trampled, when they’re denied life and health and provision, the rights of God are trampled.

“God’s rights are being violated in each woman who is beaten, in each child who I abused, and in many others who starve to death because of a world economic system that is wreaking havoc on the most vulnerable.” (p.49)

God’s wrights are being violated because he has chosen to become one with those who are treated the worst. God has chosen a preference to the poor, you can tell this just by counting Bible verses. There is more about the poor in the scriptures than about any of the subjects we seem to take more seriously in American Christianity. His love is, as Craig Keen says it, “on its way to the poor.” Not that he loves them more than the rich, but if one child is crying in the sand box and the other is falling off of the roof, should the crying child be jealous that the father rushed to catch his brother before cradling him? Should he say that the father loves him less? God’s love is on the way to the poor and thus the only appropriate response to God’s love is to be on your way to the poor with it. As the love of God enters in, the only thing to do is go to where his love is going.

So what must we do? We must see, first of all. We must have healthy eyes to see the oppression in the world and then we must ask what causes it. What systems are in place that trample on God’s rights in a specific situation? What can be done to cause drastic enough change that the systems will be unable to adapt? And then, when we can see the systems and the forces, the only response is to act.


Mark said…
hey, wes. that blog i told you about is up. by the way, is wellis68 your sn?