The capacious and eternal love of God is neither a verifiable fact nor an opinion, but a theological truth-claim, staked on trust in Jesus as a credible witness. Christians who believe in such love should be wary of both the politics of condemnation and the politics of purity.
The Exodus event and the liberation of slaves from Egypt is not only the foundational story of Israel’s identity, it is also meant to be the key to understanding who God is in Hebrew Scriptures. Let that liberation be how the world continues to hear the name of God, today.
We all learn ways of negotiating life from our histories, families, religions, and our broader society. These passages suggest that some of what we learn can be deadly to our siblings and our neighbors, but we can explore different visions of God and abandon the toxic ways of thinking that are so often deeply embedded in our world.
In our zeal for the projects to which we commit ourselves, especially when we see them as responding to God’s call upon our lives, we risk a myopia that obscures our perception of other realities. Elijah’s story serves as both a warning and a source of hope to those of us inclined to abandon the institutional church, reminding us that there are likely many others who share our deepest commitments, even if these others remain invisible to us for now.
Just as Jacob’s encounter brought new beginnings and transformation for him, embracing our true identities can lead to a powerful ripple effect within our communities. By cultivating a culture of acceptance, understanding, and celebration of individual uniqueness, we can foster an environment where marginalised voices get uplifted and empowered.
Given the precarious nature of the planet we call home, the need for a scandalous and subversive kingdom animated by the Spirit of God, which advocates justice, mercy, compassion, and healing to the creation, couldn’t be more urgent.
Whatever our exegesis of scripture and tradition may suggest, it is imperative that we take into account the pain and damage our religious piety causes to others. Is our perception of divine instruction sufficient justification for actual injury (physical, psychological, and/or spiritual) to our neighbors?
In the voices of the oppressed, one can listen to the voice of the divine. In this decolonial reading, one can excavate a liberative hermeneutic, which is life affirming and life nurturing. The lament of Hagar and her son Ishmael are echoed today in the voices of several people who are excluded in the society by the dominant, and the call for us today is to listen to the divine and work for a just world.