After two and a half weeks in India interviewing women in the slums of Delhi, I was overcome with thoughts and feelings. Couple those experiences with a steady intake of podcasts, scripture, sermons, and other media, and my brain went into overdrive. This resulted in a very, very long piece connecting lots of random dots. To save you some reading time, I’ve separated the blog into four pieces which flow from one to another. This is Part 4. For everything to make as much sense as possible, I suggest you start with Part 1, then head to Part 2, check out Part 3, and finally return to read this installment.
In my re-reading through the Bible this year, I’m currently half way through Revelation (and no, I haven’t stayed that far ahead of pace. I got tired of OT stuff, so I switched to the NT this summer…still have a long way to go).
And if I’m honest, I don’t like Revelation. My faith tends to be pretty tangible – Jesus and people and nature and love and service. I get these things. I love these things.
Seven-headed dragons, on the other hand? Yeah, pass.
But while I was reading Revelation 2 the other day, something struck a chord in me – particularly as I’ve been thinking through all of this barrier-breaking over the past few weeks. It started a crazy series of connections that has me seeing a brand new thread stringing all the way through the Bible – one that stems from one of my all-time favorite passages that I wrote about just a couple of weeks ago without any foreknowledge of this. God is cool.
(Again, fair warning, this one is mega-Jesus-y as well).
Anyway, in the Revelation passage, the Lamb (Jesus) breaks the seven seals on the scroll in heaven. No one else before him could open the scroll. No one else could break the seal.
To me, this immediately hearkened back to one of my favorite scripture passages – the tearing of the veil following Jesus’s resurrection on the cross.
In the temple, the Holy of Holies (the central place of the temple that no one could enter – essentially God himself) was separated by curtains through which no one could pass. These curtains stood as a physical reminder of the separation of God and his people. There was a barrier in between us and God, caused by sin, caused by the fall.
The world was broken and messed up, and therefore had to be kept separate from the perfect God.
When Jesus died on the cross – that perfect justice in action – the curtain tore from top to bottom. Because of Jesus’ crucifixion, humanity was able to access God freely for the first time since the garden. The barrier was broken because Jesus stood in the middle. Love and justice on the cross paved a path from us to God.
Just days before, Jesus foreshadowed this moment while in the upper room with his best friends. They were gathered to celebrate Passover, a tradition that reminded the Israelites that they were not forgotten. That despite the barrier between them and God, God knew them and loved them. That God would spare them – and a few days later, high on a hill, God did just that permanently.
The first Passover – the event that the holiday commemorates – occurred centuries before while the Israelites were in captivity in Egypt. The Israelites, enslaved and broken, were instructed by Moses to paint over their doors in blood as a symbol that they knew God – and as protection for the upcoming plague that was to sweep over Pharaoh’s world. God protected his people – he guarded his people – as a plague of death took the lives of the first born in Egyptian households.
Because of Exodus 3.
Because God hears the cry of the oppressed and cares.
Because God is in the business of freeing his children from the binds that hold them.
And the best part is that that is still true.
So when I sit here in India and feel shattered by oppression, I’m reminded that God sees, God knows, and God cares.
I’m reminded that the seals are still broken, the curtain is still torn, and we living in a post-crucifixion – and perhaps even more importantly, post-resurrection – world.
It’s the lesson I needed more than anything as my enneagram-3 self started to crack. It’s the reminder I needed when I stared hopelessness in the face. It’s the message I’ll keep telling myself when I feel like I have enemies.
God sees the pain and hears the cries. He cares.
God carries out justice without revenge.
God is going to keep breaking down walls to help us get to Him.
And it couldn’t be more simple (or more difficult) for us to follow his example.
See the pain, hear the cries, care.
Carry out justice without revenge.
Break down the barriers that separate person from person, and person from God.
It’s not hopeless. It’s never been hopeless.
Listen. Pray. Love.