“Ma’am, please explain 1 Peter 2:18 to us,” one of my students asks.
They call me “Ma’am” when I’m teaching at Eastern Theological College in Assam. In the sweltering heat of the Northeast Indian summer, we’re wrestling through some issues of ministering to families. But this isn’t a passage I usually cover in a family ministry course. I turn to it and my heart sinks. It’s the passage where Peter commands slaves to obey their masters, even when they are harsh. “What is a servant girl to do when her master, a member of my local church, is sexually abusing her?” my student asks. What indeed. We’d call child protection services in the United States, but that’s not an option here.
Families struggle the world over. Indeed, according to the record of the first (deadly) sibling rivalry in Genesis, families have struggled since the beginning of time. Some of the discussions we have in the seminary classrooms of Northeast India are the same discussions we have in seminary classrooms here in the States. But talk of slavery and polygamy and excommunication for divorcing couples have me scrambling for the transcultural principles in God’s Word.
I’m scrambling, but I’m also inspired. What inspires me is that there are men and women everywhere who choose to give their lives to wrestling with God’s Word and the hope it holds for families. Around the world, churches uphold the Word of God and its principles for faithful family life even, or maybe especially, as families struggle to live together in their broken reality. In Northeast India, as in the United States, broken families find grace and healing in Christ, as extended by the local church.
My experience with Eastern Theological College (ETC) gives me hope for the world. This seminary is training leaders to respond to their world’s needs. In response to the insurgency and tribal conflicts of this region, ETC offers a Peace Studies graduate degree; to the plight of children, a Holistic Child Development master’s degree; to the marginalization of women, a Women’s Studies department. It is encouraging. God calls His people to make a difference in this world and Christians around the world are answering God’s call.
And as to the question of the servant girl’s obedience to her abusive master, at least now there is one student in a local church who will advocate for this young girl to make a difference in her world.