Back to blog

Rebuke the Oppressor

“Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless,
plead for the widow.” – Isaiah 1:17

Working in the anti-trafficking field, I am confronted with stories of execrable sexual abuse almost daily. I have found oppression to take many forms: emotional or psychological manipulation, physical bondage, verbal abuse, or even sexual exploitation and, worse, enslavement. Considering all the disturbing elements of these cases, one of the most prevalent is the absence of an advocate. Time after time, no one was willing to stand up against the exploitation of a little girl or boy.

Oppressors can be found in every walk of life. They range from priests of the cloth to human traffickers in Russia, and often, they are veiled behind a cloak of respectability. In most cases when one of these individuals is finally exposed, there is a track record of people who were aware of their abusive behavior and yet did nothing to stop it. My heart breaks when I consider how many of these atrocities could have been averted through the simple actions of an advocate—an intercessor.

In the book of Isaiah (chapter 59), we hear God’s revealing response to the injustices permeating Israel’s society. He “wondered” that there was no intercessor. “Wondered” can also be translated as “stupefied” or “appalled” and is only used twice in Scripture (Isa. 59:16 and Isa. 63:5)—both times to describe God’s shock that there was no one to bring justice, no one to stand up for the oppressed. Piercing through the cloud of Israel’s outward piety, God identifies the core of the nation’s malignant condition—social inaction.

Today many people consider the pursuit of social justice as an addition to their faith. But God considers it evidence of our faith (Jas. 2:20). As the Church, we are called to embody the heart of Jesus on behalf of the oppressed. “Pure and undefiled religion before God . . . is to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (Jas. 1:27).

If we are to express God’s heart to those who are oppressed we must be aware of every aspect of this calling. We are not only to care for the oppressed, but to literally stand against their oppressors and “rebuke them.” God exhorts us to “REBUKE the oppressor” (emphasis added).

Too often we mistake silence as mercy. It is not. Silence and inaction provide the perfect atmosphere for injustice to permeate our churches, schools, workplaces, and homes. The apostle Paul charges us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11, emphasis added).

If we are to walk out the biblical mandate to pursue justice we will inevitably take a radical and assertive stand against those who seek to oppress others. Messengers of justice do not tolerate or coddle the oppressor. We do not make excuses for them or rationalize their behavior. Oppressors are not to be psychoanalyzed. They are to be stopped.

Our morally relativistic culture is painfully deficient of accountability, forming the seedbed from which oppressors are arising, en masse, many times without the conviction that there is anything wrong with the acts of injustice they perpetrate. Once they have reached the point where they can justify their oppression, their conscience is seared. Delivering an incisive rebuke will be as much for them as it is for the vulnerable ones they seek to exploit. The light of truth has the power to awaken any individual from his cave of delusion.

Oppressors must be confronted with the essential truth that all human life is sacred and inconceivably precious in the eyes of God. They must be admonished that they are destroying a person whose life is made in the very image of God and created for an eternal purpose. To rob a person of this divine right is to rob God Himself.

There can be no confusion regarding the judgment that awaits those who oppress other human beings. To the oppressed, God says, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you” (Isa. 35:4). But to the oppressor, God says “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk. 9:42). In other words: What I will do to you is far worse than any retribution you could possibly face at the hands of the most ruthless person. It truly is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Those who oppress and exploit others have nothing to look forward to but the fiery judgment of God’s eternal wrath.

An Open Letter to Oppressors and Perpetrators of Suffering and Injustice

What you are engaged in is a violation of human life. You are causing severe, possibly irreparable, damage to the person you oppress. Through your heinous actions you have destroyed their spirit, their soul, and their body, robbing them of the freedom, sanctity, and dignity their Creator endowed them with.

I feel compelled to warn you that though I have many ideas of how to punish you, none can compare with the judgment God Himself has prepared for you if you persist in your oppression of others. Incredibly, you have a marvelous and almost unbelievable opportunity to surrender to God, to repent of and turn from your oppressive actions, and to receive Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who bore the wrath of God for all who turn from their wicked ways and accept and follow Him. For it is only through the cross of Christ that a just God is able to forgive sin without denying justice.

However, should you choose to continue in your current path, make no mistake, you will surely die and bear the full weight of God’s wrath, for He is righteous and just. And in your eternally reprobate condition you will suffer incomprehensible torment for the ages to come, without end. On the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Pet. 3:7), when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), these very words will testify against you, and you will know for all eternity that your path of destruction was avoidable and that you alone are to blame for the judgment you bear.

Therefore, I pray for you, as Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies. But I don’t pray that God would overlook your despicable actions. Rather, I pray, with trembling in my heart, that God, in His kindness, would lead you to repentance (Rom. 2:4), and that you would come to your senses before you stand face to face with the eternal Father of all those you defiled through your self-centered lust for power. He is the God who said, “For jealousy is a husband’s fury; therefore He will not spare in the day of vengeance” (Prov. 6:34). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). I can only fathom what the bowels of hell hold in expectation for you, should you refuse God’s offer of mercy (see Isa. 14:9). But if you turn from your life of sin and oppression and call upon the living God, He will make you a new creation and give you His peace, for you were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

If your heart is stirred to turn away from your oppression and accept God’s free invitation of forgiveness and you would like to receive further prayer and counseling, please email us at: [email protected]

3 Comments on “Rebuke the Oppressor”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Thank you for writing this. I have been physically ill with the weight of this horrific evil. I am a new abolitionist. After watching Amazing Grace, I saw it also hurt Wilberforce’s health. This must be just a piece of the pain in God’s heart. Thank you for standing strong.

  2. Shelley Northrup Says:
    July 23rd, 2012 at 11:42 am

    This was a much needed writing piece in the cause of social injustice. It is so easy just to talk away sometimes. Human trafficking is so horrific and can be painful for abolitionists but that is what we are called to do. We are called to suffer for the little ones. And if we are suffering, how much more are the victims suffering? It is time for people to set aside their own desires and their own easiness and rise up and fight with Jesus against this war on so many souls.

  3. hannah yasha Says:
    July 24th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Praying for the ending of abuse starting here, starting now, starting in our community….. i have been in the field of education fighting child abuse.I am a mandated reporter, working in the public school systems with government agencies for 30+ years. My reports have reformed reporting and cooperation between agencies, and yet I have rarely seen justice in a timely manner.  What do you do when you sense symptoms of abuse in children in the U.S. that would be more effective?