My Christmas thoughts have taken me to the genealogy in Matthew of the lineage of Jesus and the curious inclusion of five women in that patriarchal history. They stand out, not only as women in a patriarchal society, but as examples of faith and of God’s redeeming love.
Tamar and Rahab, the first two women in the list, were unlikely examples. Tamar prostituted herself with Judah, and Rahab was actually a prostitute. That God would use such sinful and lowly women is shocking, if not remarkable. Their stations in life and their choices before the encounters which defined them were humble and base.
Their faith, however, is the story. They believed God. They made a choice to trust God and His promise. Though they were both flawed and of low station in life, they are remembered in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who will also rule all that God has made at the end of this age. Though they were women in a patriarchal society, they are remembered side by side with the men.
The real story is God and His redeeming work in the lives of people and in the history of world. No story is more pregnant with God’s redemptive work than the story of Ruth, who is the third women listed in the genealogy of Jesus.
Whether you wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, Christmas involves some acknowledgment of the birth of a man who was called Jesus who lived and died in the 1st Century in the region of Palestine and modern Israel today. Here, in the confluence of Roman, Greek, Jewish and pagan influences, an obscure carpenter who lived maybe 33 years began a movement in human history that has spanned the globe and, even today, remains a predominant influence.
This movement created perhaps the freest and greatest democracy in human history. It flourishes even in the cold, communist climate of China and in the hotly hostile religious climate of Iran. It has made its way into the far reaches of the earth, down remote jungle streams and over barren desert sands to touch nearly all people groups of the earth.
Slavery was common in the culture in the 1st Century AD, and it is, therefore, not surprising to find references to it in the New Testament. Following are the references to slavery in the New Testament and some commentary to put it in perspective.
A recent conversation with one of my sons spurred me to consider slavery as it is addressed in the New Testament because the Bible is sometimes criticized by skeptics who point to its treatment of slavery. Indeed, there are instructions given to the nation of Israel that seem to accept slavery as a practice, and the New Testament does not expressly condemn it.