The God Who Sees
An angel of God found Hagar beside a spring in the desert. He said, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, what are you doing here?” She said, “I’m running away from Sarai my mistress.” The angel of God said, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her abuse.” – Genesis 16:7-10 (MSG)
Of all the Bible stories that reveal humanity’s alarming capacity for cruelty and exploitation, the story of Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham is among the worst. A woman of color is used, abused, and exiled by God’s chosen ones, and though God helps Hagar and her son to survive, God does not change their oppressive circumstances.
People of power and privilege have long used this disturbing tale to justify the separate and unequal treatment of genders, races, and religions. They have read it as the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac relegating Hagar and Ishmael to minor and irrelevant roles.
But Hagar lives her own story. She discovers God is with her in the wilderness. And as the only woman in all the Bible to name the Holy One, she becomes part of the divine story, calling God “the Living One who sees me.”
This is not to discount the crushing realities of racism and sexism, the untold suffering that is too easily overlooked or dismissed, the ways our actions and inactions tell others to endure injustice. This is not to tie a pretty bow on an explosive package and go merrily on our way.
This is to remind you that God sees you, too. This is to encourage you to regard others through God’s eyes.
We don’t understand why liberation takes so long. But we thank you for seeing us and making a way out of no way.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.