Have you ever asked “what if?” What if I won a million dollars? or What if I hadn’t eaten all those beans last night? or What if I had actually studied for that test? There are so many “what-if” questions out there. Here’s another one: What if we were to actually live a kingdom of love and justice and compassionate action? What if Jesus actually meant what He said? What if the reality found in Luke 4:18 was lived out and not just read, spoken of, or quoted?
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free.”
If the above words (Luke 4:18) were actually lived out, phrase by phrase, this is how I think the reality would look:
- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me -
God is LOVE and this Spirit, LOVE, is the essence that changes the world. When this Spirit is on me and you, and IN me and you, that is how the Revolution begins.
- He has anointed me -
You and I and all of us who are alive at this time in history are anointed. We are all sacred, so therefore we all must protect the sacredness of each other – no matter where we are from. And this anointing is of LOVE, which as Cornel West says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” We are all anointed, but we all can choose to reject this mindset of anointing – this mindset of LOVE/JUSTICE – and we can choose to live a different culture of walls and selfishness and materialism. Whatever we do with the time we’ve been given, one thing is for sure: we will make ripple effects, regardless of what we choose to live for.
- Bring Good News to the poor -
Bringing good news to the poor is not necessarily about preaching. What good does preaching do for people who do not have food, clothes, a shelter, or basic human rights? They need “good news” in the form of actions and needs met. Like the old saying says: ”actions speak louder than words.” In fact, most communication specialists say that words only constitute 7% of communication, tone of voice is 23% of communication, and body language, or actions, is 70% of communication. So what good does it do someone in need if I tell them God loves them, but I don’t prove it by my actions in helping to provide some basic needs? If God does love them, and that LOVE is on me and in me, I will do so much more than mere words. As Saint Francis of Assisi put it: “Preach the Gospel to all the world; and if necessary, use words.”
- He has sent me -
To be sent means that there is something greater beyond my little box, my little world, and my little reality. There is a need that must be met, and if I don’t step outside myself, then someone’s universe will be lacking. And we are all sent. To be sent means to leave something and go somewhere else. I believe this place we are to leave is not necessarily a physical location, but it is a me-culture, a kingdom of selfishness and greed and materialism that is constantly shouting at us, surrounding us, and pulling at us. We are to leave that mindset behind and go…
- Proclaim that captives be released -
If I have the ability to proclaim that captives be released, that means that I am in a position of freedom and power to do so. In other words, a lot of people could say that releasing captives is someone else’s “job” or “calling”. But if the spirit of LOVE is upon us, I am in a position of liberating others, regardless of who I am. This LOVE has liberated me, so that I can then liberate others. When we are experiencing any kind of freedom in our experience, be it financial freedom, educational freedom, spiritual freedom, the freedom of a geographical location (do I live in a country that gives me the freedom and resources to choose my direction in life), then it is our duty to proclaim freedom to every living soul. And I can do this “proclaiming” in so many ways: I can offer financial assistance; I can educate and raise awareness for others; I can share my LOVE through small acts of kindness with every sacred person I come in contact with; I can use the status of where I live as a power to help those who don’t live in a free situation; and I can use my talents to change the corners of the world I find myself in. And the list could go on. This is what it means to “proclaim.” It’s not just about updating my Facebook status or making a speech, it’s living a reality of proclaiming through every miniscule task, tweet, text, email, purchase, smile, conversation, etc. that another world is possible! That there is a reality of freedom that belongs to every single soul on this spinning planet. I must proclaim! Every single moment of every single day, I will choose to proclaim!
-That the blind will see -
What if “the blind” is referring to me? What if I am the blind, unaware of human need and suffering? What if I am the one shutting my eyes from the atrocities of evil that surround me? What if I am the one who can help to end suffering, but I close my eyes tightly shut because to see that suffering and acknowledge it, means that I must now get involved. And to get involved would mean that I change my way of living for myself. To shut my eyes keeps me safe, and naive, and comfortable, and clean, and sterile, and especially keeps me from being accountable. As the quote from Spiderman says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So if I choose not to see that side of the fence, I can have an excuse not to move. And so many times we choose to believe the lies of advertisements which scream at us: ”You deserve that!” ”Don’t help others – they got themselves in that situation.” And we turn into the Pharisee that prays “Thank you God that I am not one of them.” We feel justified to only look in the mirror and build up our kingdom of self. And when someone does shine the light on a situation to raise awareness, many times we shrink back and close our eyes tighter, trying to make excuses for not getting involved. But the flip side of shutting my eyes is to settle for a reality of living that keeps me cold, empty, selfish, bitter, greedy, bored, tired, entitled, bigoted, and ignorant. It keeps me devoid of LOVE. But when I let LOVE heal me, when I open my eyes to the world around me, beyond me, and the poverty within me, I can see through a different lens – a lens of compassion, justice and mercy, and I will be compelled to take action. But just remember: the first time you see, it may hurt – the awareness of light may hurt our eyes cuz we are so used to darkness. As we experience compassion, it may hurt because now we are involved, but it also means that we are alive and I have found that this hurt propels me into compassionate action. As Mother Teresa says: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
-That the oppressed will be set free-
Oppression is defined as ”Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control, and the state of being subject to such treatment or control.” We are to set free those who are victims of cruel, unjust treatment, or cruel, unjust control. Every person who is in this condition is my responsibility to get involved and unlock their chains. This ties into “proclaiming”, cuz not only do I proclaim, but I am to care. I have to become invested. I choose to do what is in my means of control to break the chains of oppression.
However, what if this last step, “the oppressed will be set free” is also referring to you and me? Aren’t we under cruel and unjust treatment and control? And most of it we put on ourselves by believing lies of financial debt, entitled living, non-involvement, social status, living-for-self, and compartmentalized outlooks on the world.
Oppression of the soul.
Chains that we perhaps put on ourselves, or we let society put on us.
Chains that are constantly trying to suffocate our passions, dreams, and empathy.
These chains are trying to make a captive out of you and a captive out of me.
What if this is the oppression that steals at us? What if this is the oppression that locks up our freedom to be who we were meant to be for this time in earth’s history? How do I become a captive? Usually the chains that attempt to shackle us are greed, selfish living, a sense of entitlement, apathy, pride, distractions from my purpose, noise, disdain for others, blindness to the condition of my brothers and sisters around the world, or maybe it’s discouragement or fear…and the list could go on. I must recognize these chains that are constantly trying to wrap around my soul, and squelch my passion and my ability to take action. I must be reminded that I am defined by something so much greater than my title, status, social class, etc. I must be reminded that I am FREE. That when myself or others come and try to lock my soul back up in expectations or apathy or selfish-paper-castle-living, that I am FREE from all those voices. I am defined by something so much greater. I am defined by LOVE. And it is there that the cycle starts over again: The Spirit of Love is upon me and in me…and that is what defines my journey, and that is what propels me to see and celebrate every living soul for the sacred, beautiful creation that they are. One World. One Love. One Life…. Let’s do something!