When Wrong is Right
(Exodus 1:8 - 2:10) Frederick Buechner, an American theologian and ordained Presbyterian minister once said, “Until we hear the stories of the Bible as being stories about ourselves, we cannot hear them at all. We have to imagine our way into them.”
As I read the story around Moses’ birth, I was struck by this story. I was struck by its similarity to the story of the so many people being systematically oppressed and eradicated by another. I could imagine my way into the lives of these two midwives who disobeyed the King of Egypt AND lied to him in favor of obeying the King of Universe! You may be surprised to hear that I have been called disobedient once or twice in my life.
Having a child of my own whom I love more than my own life, I could imagine my way into Moses’ mother’s story as she chose to hide her baby boy away rather than permit anyone to harm him. Who among us cannot imagine their way into this scenario?
Moses had an unlikely ally in the Pharaoh’s daughter. Maybe she imagined herself into the story and lives of Hebrew mothers who watched helplessly as their babies were murdered and taken from them. Maybe after seeing a helpless baby doomed for death, she experienced a metanoia, a change of mind and heart.
Did you notice, all the heroes are women. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was being criticized by some people for allowing women to hold responsible positions. Booth replied: "All my best men are women." God has a way of taking what is small and multiplying them. Remember, a little bit of faith? a little bit of food? a few women together disobeying.
Obedience is a big deal in the Korean culture. Big! A disobedient child brings dishonor and shame to his/her family and without honor the family has no social currency. It is like living a dead life.
All of these women in the story chose to do what is wrong in order to do what is right. They chose to disobey the laws and royal decrees of the land at the risk of their lives. In so doing, God honored them and thousands of years later, we are still honoring their heroic behavior.
I could also imagine my way into the story of Moses. He was a Hebrew child adopted into an Egyptian house and world. Moses was an immigrant who had to unlearn who he was as an Israelite and adopt a new identity in his foreign surroundings. I can imagine the psychological trauma of that experience. Whatever, his family called him all those years that he lived with them, whatever his Hebrew name was, his new name that he would forever be known by, immortalized in the pages of the Scriptures, that name would be an Egyptian name, Moses, given to him by his adopted Egyptian mother.
I was struck and maybe you too have been struck by how similar and relevant this biblical story is to the his and her-story of the civil rights movement in the United States that is still unfolding. As I read about the structured plan to wipe out the Hebrews in Egypt, I thought to myself, how can I, how can we avoid talking about Ferguson, MO?
For the many African American boys and young men around this nation, they don’t imagine their way into the Moses story identifying with Moses; the one saved and adopted. They identify with the other young boys in the story who were slain.
My No. 1 and No. 2 favorite song of all time are protest songs by Marvin Gaye. No. 1 is “Mercy, Mercy Me” and No. 2 is “What’s Going On”. If you just read the lyrics, they are undeniable protest songs.
When they are read, they pack a social justice punch but when they are sung, when you listen to the music, they embrace us, cradles us and rocks us to the sounds of a love song.
Protest songs stand against death and destruction and stand in solidarity with Hesed, righteousness, loving kindness and mercy. Love for all of life, great and small. It doesn’t matter that Michael Brown was a black child, or a good child or a good student. Life is what matters, his life mattered and his life was snuffed out unjustly.
Stories like Moses and Michael Brown, exist to warn us not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. They remind us that there are times in history when what seems right is very wrong and what is declared wrong is right.
May we all be wise enough and righteous in loving kindness to discern the difference and then to do what we can to promote more love and justice and snuff out hate. Amen.