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Liberation for the Poor

Liberation is a crucial question when it comes to finding faith and passion in an all-loving God or, in the end, finding no true justification for that loving God. In Contemporary Christologies by Don Schweitzer, Jon Sobrino finds liberation through Jesus’ interactions with the most vulnerable people among us, the poor. This liberation empowers Jon beliefs and reveals a God who will right all wrongs. According to Sobrino, God shares the suffering and struggles of the poor through Jesus, but how?

For Sobrino, the most difficult theological question deals with the liberation of the poor. He spends a majority of his life living in Latin America. Here he witnesses firsthand how the economic oppression, violent repression, and a lack of dignity affect the poor. Sobrino goes as far to say that, “in Latin America…we are not doing theology after Auschwitz, but during Auschwitz.”(pg.63) Sobrino is referring to the fact that there are multitudes caught in cultural poverty that is being overlooked by a majority of people, especially the world’s higher authorities. Sobrino believes that the church and all followers of Jesus Christ need to change the focus of fighting such beliefs as atheism and, instead, refocus that energy on fighting unjust poverty.

Don Schweitzer says: Sobrino argues that Jesus’ ministry brought the reign of God to people as a free gift, regardless of their social worth. As the coming of God’s reign was the focus of Jesus’ ministry and the cause for which he died, it must remain the focus of the church’s life and mission. (pg.64) This is where Sobrino sees liberation through the work of Jesus Christ. Rather then Jesus trying to use his power to obtain ultimate control of humanity, he did the opposite in humbling himself and living among the poor or socially unaccepted.

Sobrino believes that Jesus’ fundamental concern was in liberating the poor from external oppression. Through this, Jesus reveals that God offers a superior option for the poor. According to Sobrino, drawing near to God’s reign meant liberation to poor. In order for Jesus to reach out to the poor, he had to come into conflict with the authorities who benefitted from oppression of the poor, such as the Jewish Religious and Roman politicians, who eventually called for Jesus’ death. But Sobrino believes that in Jesus’ resurrection, God’s message of liberating the poor is established as true.

Beyond living with the poor, it is important to note how Jesus directly liberates the poor. Sobrino considers the poor in third world countries, especially in the Southern hemisphere, to be the ‘crucified people.’ In this he is referring to them as experiencing similar suffering to Jesus’ crucifixion, and with their suffering, the crucifixion of Jesus continues. As Schweitzer says, “Their suffering and struggle for justice is thus the primary place where God is revealed and encountered. The task of Christians is to help bring the suffering poor down from the cross by seeking the coming of the reign.” (pg. 65)

However, it is the coming off the cross and the faith of resurrection of Jesus that gives ultimate hope to the poor and oppressed. Sobrino believes that the resurrection shows the victory of God’s great love over violent oppression, and it ultimately empowers hope for the final overcoming and destruction of injustice and oppression.

But while Jesus’ resurrection reveals that God’s love is effective and will ultimately triumph, it is the cross that makes it credible to the victims of history by showing that God shares their suffering and is with them in their struggle. Through Jesus’ cross, God draws near to the poor. Through his resurrection, God gives them hope. (pg.65) According to Sobrino, Jesus ultimately sacrificed his life out of faithfulness to the Reign of God to end sin, injustice, and oppression.

In conclusion, Jesus is the source of ultimate hope for the poor and oppressed. As Don Schweitzer describes it, “Jesus let God be transcendent and succeeded in credibly realizing/revealing God’s love in history by accepting suffering for God’s sake and dying on the cross to bring God near to the poor in an ultimate sense.” (pg.66) According to Sobrino, Jesus provided liberation to the poor through the struggle of sacrificing his own life. Ultimately, through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection there is hope for the poor and oppressed, and this hope is truly a liberation to the poor.

Christianity


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