The inimitable Russ Moore spoke at chapel on my campus (Union University) last week. He preached from Deut. 24: 14-22, making a fascinating link between caring for the least among us and the local church, using orphans / adoption as the illustrating framework for his message.
As I pondered the verses, my eyes kept falling on this repeated phrase:
“Remember that you were a slave in Egypt” (vv. 18 & 22).
The link between doing justice and its memorial value, that we never forget that once we longed for justice, was startling to me as I kept repeating the words to myself.
Forgetfulness is one of the fiercest enemies of the Gospel. We forget that we once were helpless on our own (Rom. 5:6), and, more than that, we were enemies to the Gospel (Rom. 5:10). We forget that grace is not of ourselves (Eph. 2:8-10). We forget that we once were slaves to our sin (Rom. 6:17). We just forget.
Rick Stearns wrote a pretty popular book, “The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us?” (Thomas Nelson 2010), that reminds Christ-followers that ministering to the poor and the downtrodden is central to our mission in this world. It’s funny, isn’t it, just how quickly we seem to forget about the poor and the downtrodden? The widow and the orphan? And then, all too often, when we start to minister to them, we find ourselves forgetting about the Gospel itself and the very reason that we are to be about such business: we once were slaves.
One of the reasons I often pontificate about the power of liberal learning in the Christian context is because it helps us to understand history and how important it genuinely is. History keeps us from being foolish. It ought to keep us from being forgetful too. That’s why I see the power of testimony as crucial to life in Christian community. It’s why I like to hear people tell the story of how they came to faith in Christ. When we tell these stories, we are reminded that we once were slaves. But we were rescued by a Redeemer who bought our freedom with His blood.