When the abuse escalates, Hagar escapes into the wilderness and heads back to her home in Egypt. Even though she is pregnant and vulnerable to any number of dangers, Hagar risks everything in search of freedom. While on her journey home, an angel of the Lord appears to her and asks where she is going. When she explains her situation, the angel tells her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her” (Genesis 16:9).These words baffle me. Return? Isn't this the part when God is supposed to bring deliverance? What sense can be made of this?
How do we cope with a story in our sacred text in which God instructs a woman to go back to a situation of abuse?
Certain moments in our nation's history have consistently opened the door for the least civil voices to enact evil through civil policy: think the institution of race-based U.S. slavery, the Indian removals, Jim Crow laws, legalized segregation, the federal protection of lynching mobs, and, don't forget, the Japanese internment camps, among others.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Urbana 09 Missions Conference put on every three years by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It was powerful to be worshiping Christ with 17,000 young adults who were saying "Here am I Lord, send me."
As the band of runaway Israelite slaves wander in their search for freedom, again and again they grow rebellious. In the greatest of these rebellions, Korach criticizes Moses, claiming "The whole community is holy -- all of them! Why do you, Moses and Aaron, raise yourselves above them?" (Numbers 16: 1-3ff)