In my research, I came across this Nelson Mandela quote,
“It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, black and white. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. I am not truly free when my freedom is taken away from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”
Really, each one of us is oppressed in some way, and likewise each one of us is an oppressor. I suppose it’s an aspect of the fall, played out into our businesses, churches, and stores. The systems we are a part of at times oppress us, and at times we use them to oppress others.
But even in the times we are the oppressors, we are not really free. We are still contained by the systems that require us to stay on top.
I like how Mandela’s “hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people” reflects Paul’s writing in Romans 9, that he would be cut off from Christ so that all of Israel would know Christ. It seems to indicate that as we discover and wrestle with our own freedom, we ache for others to experience the same thing. We see the glorious thing that it is, and it seems unfair to keep it to ourselves.
And I feel a little of this with our friends in the neighborhood. The more we know them and live life together–taking out the trash together, daily hellos, being a part of their families growing up–the more I ache to be able to share why we’re here. Why we love them. Why we pray for them. And the beauty of a hope in Christ that removes the roles of oppression, bringing restoration and freedom from “the bondage to decay” (Romans 8) that clearly weighs them down.
The ache grows, and I am slowly becoming more willing to give up my freedom for theirs.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searched our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Romans 8: 26-27