A Bible Verse about Strength
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, Colossians 1:11-12.
A Story of Courage
Harriet Tubman became famous as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad during the turbulent 1850s. Born a slave on Maryland’s eastern shore, she endured the harsh existence of a field hand, including brutal beatings. In 1849 she fled slavery, leaving her husband and family behind in order to escape. Despite a bounty on her head, she returned to the South at least 19 times to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Tubman also served as a scout, spy and nurse during the Civil War.
In 1849 Tubman fled Maryland, leaving behind her free husband of five years, John Tubman, and her parents, sisters, and brothers. “Mah people mus’ go free,” her constant refrain, suggests a determination uncommon among even the most militant slaves. She returned to the South at least nineteen times to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Utilizing her native intelligence and drawing on her boundless courage, she eluded bounty hunters seeking a reward for her capture, which eventually went as high as forty thousand dollars. She never lost a fugitive or allowed one to turn back.
Two things sustained her: the pistol at her side and her faith in God. She would not hesitate to use the pistol in self-defense, but it was also a symbol to instruct slaves, making it clear that “dead Negroes tell no tales.” Timid slaves seemed to find courage in her presence; no one ever betrayed her. She affirmed her faith in God in her statement, “I always tole God, I’m gwine to hole stiddy on to you, an’ you’ve got to see me trou [through].”
Tubman collaborated with John Brown in 1858 in planning his raid on Harpers Ferry. The two met in Canada where she told him all she knew of the Underground Railroad in the East. Advising him on the area in which he planned to operate, she promised to deliver aid from fugitives in the region. Brown’s admiration for her was immeasurable, and he wanted her to accompany him on the raid. Tubman planned to be present but was ill at the time and could not participate.
Tubman’s resistance to slavery did not end with the outbreak of the Civil War. Her services as nurse, scout, and spy were solicited by the Union government. For more than three years she nursed the sick and wounded in Florida and the Carolinas, tending whites and blacks, soldiers and contrabands. Tubman was a short woman without distinctive features. With a bandanna on her head and several front teeth missing, she moved unnoticed through rebel territory. This made her invaluable as a scout and spy under the command of Col. James Montgomery of the Second Carolina Volunteers. As leader of a corps of local blacks, she made several forays into rebel territory, collecting information. Armed with knowledge of the location of cotton warehouses, ammunition depots, and slaves waiting to be liberated, Colonel Montgomery made several raids in southern coastal areas. Tubman led the way on his celebrated expedition up the Combahee River in June 1863. For all of her work, Tubman was paid only two hundred dollars over a three-year period and had to support herself by selling pies, gingerbread, and root beer.
After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn, New York, and continued to help blacks forge new lives in freedom. She cared for her parents and other needy relatives, turning her residence into the Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes. Lack of money continued to be a pressing problem, and she financed the home by selling copies of her biography and giving speeches. Her most memorable appearance was at the organizing meeting of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 in Washington, D.C. Two generations came together to celebrate the strength of black women and to continue their struggle for a life of dignity and respect. Harriet Tubman, the oldest member present, was the embodiment of their strength and their struggle.
Ground Work: Read Galatians 1:11-24
Galatians was written in the heat of controversy; every line in it reflects that fact. Paul believed his gospel to be under a deadly attack that would destroy the churches he had founded and ultimately the gospel itself. Therefore he used all the arguments at his command to counteract that attack: personal experience, biblical interpretation of the OT, sarcasm and pathos, personal appeal, and apostolic tradition, Edgar Krentz, Minneapolis: The Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Galatians, Augsburg Publishing House, 1985, p. 13.
Paul argues for the authority of his message in this section. The message that Paul speaks about Jesus and the implications for all Jesus’ followers was a divine message that Paul received by revelation (1:12) and not from other people (1:11-12). It is because of the fact that God always planned to call Paul to be the evangelist to the Gentiles (1:15) that the Galatian churches, which had left Paul’s teachings to follow a contrary gospel (1:6-7), were being urged to return once again to follow Paul’s teachings about the Christian life.
To further establish the authenticity of his teachings, Paul told the story of his conversion and the early years of his Christian faith formation. He was a vicious persecutor of the church, a faith he wanted to eliminate. As a Christian convert, Paul’s journey to discover this faith was a God-thing not from the apostles or the Jerusalem church. In a real sense, Paul was an outsider to the leadership of the church. This meant that Paul had a fresh perspective. This set him in a perfect place to be the evangelist to the Gentiles.
- If God chose Paul with his history as a persecutor of the church to be useful in sharing the love of Christ with people outside of the church, what causes you to think that God cannot use you to share his love with others?
- Why do you think it was important that Paul’s faith formation was a different path than Jesus first Jewish followers and now leaders in the church in Jerusalem?
- Good things often take time to develop. For Paul it took several years from his conversion until he was prepared for the mission to the Gentiles. What examples come from your own life experience of good things that took time to unfold?
- What do you take away from Galatians 1:11-24? How does this impact you
A Final Thought about Love (Let all that you do be done in love, 1 Corinthians 16:14):
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life, John 3:16.