Belle Baumfree doesn’t fit the mold we have for slaves. She was born in New York. She grew up speaking Dutch. While New York began the process of emancipating slaves in the 1799, she didn’t gain her freedom until 1826. She didn’t run away from her owner, that would have been evil. She walked away. A family took her in and paid her former owner a small sum that would pay for her until legal emancipation happened. Her son was still caught in slavery and had been sold down south. In the first court victory of this type, a black woman got her son back legally. In the 1840’s she changed her name to reflect her commitment to God and to the message that God had given to her. Sojourner Truth then advocated for freedom and equality for black people and for women. Her hope was that we would live in a world where people could not own each other and that all people would be seen as equals.
Ms. Truth not only advocated for this equality herself, she spurred others on to join in the fight. She held faithfully to this message because she had recognized that she not only had been freed from ownership when she escaped, she had been freed from her sin when she came to know Jesus Christ. It was this commitment that spurred her on. She told people “The Spirit calls me and I must go.” We see that same type of command in the book of Hebrews because the freedom we have in Christ is a freedom that we should share with others. But even more, we are to encourage people whose hearts have been changed by Jesus to live according to His guidance. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…” (Hebrews 10:23-24)
What is our hope? What is it that gives us the strength to live victoriously each day? It is that because Jesus died on the cross to bring redemption, that we can live in a relationship with God. Can there be any greater hope than that? How amazing is it that God would love us enough to want to be in fellowship with us and that He made that happen by His own sacrifice – sending Jesus to the cross. We are encouraged in this passage to hold to that faith unswervingly. Anyone else have bumps in that road? I have moments of doubt. They usually come when I am overwhelmed by my own failures and wonder how God could love someone like me. In those times, God sends reminders of His love. He truly is faithful to me even though I am not always faithful to Him.
Because of God loves us and we have fellowship with Him, our lives should change. Because our lives change, we should love others. Some of you aren’t easy to love. (And I know you might say the same about me.) God doesn’t allow us to pick and choose who to love in the world, He calls us to show love to all people so that some might come to know Him. We are to help each other love each other and love those who are not in His kingdom yet. We are to fight for emancipation from sin for all people who are still held in slavery to their sin. That is the call to love and good deeds in the passage. Our faith should be an active faith. I don’t know anyone called to retreat from society and avoid interaction with all people. I know that God has called me to be a witness to others in my daily life. To show His love. To meet the needs of others. To show by my words and deeds that I am holding unswervingly to my hope in Him. I’m not perfect yet, ain’t I a sinner too? But as I allow God to work in me, I can show that love to others.
Lord God, remind me again how much You love me. Too often I let my own sin get in the way of understanding Your love for me. Help me to hold to that hope You give me and to share Your love with others through my words and deeds.