Dr. King’s call for the oppressed to learn forgiveness continues to be a thorn in my heart and mind. I see this call as related not only to the idea of a Jubilee of forgiveness, but also related to image-flourishing.
I have mentioned in previous treatments image-flourishing and the Jubilee year. Image bearers reflect the image of God most effectively when two characteristics grow in prominence: creativity in work that focuses on benefitting others and submission to God and to his ways. The Jubilee year was a time of restoration of ancestral lands and forgiveness of debts. Jubilee could channel a fuller experience of social and economic blessings. The fabric of these blessings would consist in the arousal of joy and gratitude to God who desires and facilitates all forms of image-flourishing. The focus on God and his ways is what enables image bearers to experience social and economic developments as blessings.
The sin-sick and rebellious soul, then, cannot experience the development of material and wealth as a blessing, with blessing understood here as incorporating the response of thanksgiving and contentment. The sin-sick and rebellious soul will always desire more and give insufficient attention to the state of others. This could happen even among those who live in vital relationship with the Lord Jesus by faith. Pockets of resistance in the soul to the Lord and his ways can short-circuit the response of gratitude, contentment, and the other person orientation.
Anger, resentment and lack of faith damage the soul, even in the believer.
Even before he became bishop of Hippo, Augustine taught on the required ingredients for the soul’s healing:
“There are then, three things the soul needs: that it be healthy; that it gaze, that it see. For these, three others—faith, hope, and love—are needed. For healing and gazing, faith and hope are necessary; for seeing, all three are necessary in this life;…” (Soliloquies, 1.7.14; cited in Augustine In His Own Words, p. 62)
The obedient walk before the Lord empowered by the Holy Spirit inculcating the realities of faith, hope, and love strengthens and heals the soul. Easily said, but supernatural power is required to actualize all this.
Anger, resentment, and a lack of belief in the miracle-working powers of God can provide effective shields to the heart. A heart that may believe that the attainment of “justly acquired material things” will insure peace and contentment. I am a firm believer in justice but I am not an expert on what it is and how it should be achieved. The bottom line is that the sin-sick soul cannot even enjoy the blessings of God no matter what form they take. Anger, resentment and lack of faith damage the soul, even in the believer. Where racial tensions exists, even in the Church of Jesus Christ, the call to forgiveness may be a fresh entry to the triad of faith, hope and love, the soothing balm of the soul desiring healing.
Dr. King’s words are making more sense all the time. Oh Lord, give strength!