01 September 2014

Rhoda: Until I am Equal

Acts 12

"Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit." (Joel 2:29)

 A servant girl
should be seen, not heard,
speak when spoken to,
do her chores,
obey the Madam,
stay out of the way,

A servant girl
means little in society,
has no say,
no future of her own;
her words weigh nothing,
her opinion goes ignored -
what does a servant girl know?

But then I met You
and You changed my world;
You showed me I had worth,
that I was loved by You.
You showed me that a servant girl
can be a child of God,
can have a voice,
can have an opinion,
be part of a family
where all are the same.

But even though
I am free in Your eyes,
in their eyes
I am still a slave.
Though they belong to you
just as much as I,
though my Mistress is my Sister,
though they say that all is new,
deep down
so much is still the same.

I bring a message -
they do not hear.
What does a servant girl know?
A servant girl
should be seen, not heard,
not prophesy.

I am free,
I am free in Your eyes,
though man would make me a slave.
give me patience
until they have learnt
we all are equal in your sight.
Open their eyes
and help them to grow
beyond the lies of this world.
Help me to love them
although they're hurting me,
until they understand
your revolutionary truth,
until I am equal
in their sight as in yours.


[30. August 2014, on the plane]

When Peter was miraculously freed from prison, Rhoda the servant girl was the one who met him at the door. But when she told her mistress and the others gathered in prayer for his release, they did not believe her. Usually I view this as a case of lack of faith: praying, but not expecting anything to actually happen (see this one's sister poem, Prayer of Faith). Writing Rhoda's poem, though, I came to think of another aspect: lack of faith in the message-bearer, old prejudices taking a while to die even among Christians who were learning that "there is no longer slave or free [...] for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

At Pentecost Peter quoted Joel 2:28-29 about God pouring out His Spirit on all people: men and women, young and old, slave and free. The church was to be something new, where all people could be family, equal before God, no longer split into hierarchies but one in Christ, of equal worth, equally endowed with the Holy Spirit to do God's work. But old habits die hard and it must have taken a while for Christian masters to fully accept their slaves as brothers and sisters, not inferiors.

There is still much prejudice today, even among Christians. And that prejudice has to go, because it is not Christian. We are all one in Christ, so we need to respect one another and treat one another as equals, no matter what categories the world would put us into.

Picture by Johann Christoph Weigel.

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