The United Methodist church has a campaign called, See All the People.  This campaign uses biblical narratives to focus on the marginalized in our world.

Recently, I read a song whose words were posted in See All the People titled “Let us Remember Hagar.” The song takes the point of view of Hagar, which I hadn’t really thought about before then. This month in Gather magazine an article struck me that was titled, “Seeing other People: How Sarah and Hagar Opened My Eyes.”  The author, Cara Strickland, shares how her perceptions of Sarah and Hagar have changed over time as she dug deeper into the Bible text.  When she was younger, she saw Sarah as the hero, and Hagar as the evil one.  Now after deeper study, she has become more aware of the complexities surrounding the story.            

Hagar was a slave from Egypt and probably had deep brown skin, unlike the many pictures that portray her as light skinned. Hagar’s name means “other, or outsider, stranger.”  So not only did she look differently, but her name also declared her otherness. As a slave, she had no will of her own and was forced to do what Sarah directed her to do.  Hagar was forced to sleep with an 85-year-old man that was not her husband.  And in the end, Sarah sent Hagar and her son Ishmael out to the desert to die.  With this information available, Sarah sounds more like a broken human than hero and Hagar sounds more like a victim than an evil character.                 

Hagar is the only person in the Bible to give God a name.  She names God “El-roi,” meaning God Who Sees.  God promises Hagar a blessing of many descendants and that she will live.  After her encounter with the angel of the Lord, she felt truly seen and cared for as a person with value, not an object or a slave. Hagar trusts God and is obedient to El-roi.            

I share this story as a reminder that we can miss seeing the “other” when we are unaware of preconceived notions toward people we see as different.  The only way to truly “see” others is to dig deeper into their stories and to set down our own lenses/notions.  What we learned in our early years or our first reactions may not be the complete or even true story.            

To see and to be seen is truly a gift from God.  As God’s children, I pray we will open our eyes, and really see the Jesus in each of us.  Setting aside old ideas can be hard, but with God’s help, and open hearts, we can make the world a better place, where all people are seen and valued. Please join me in intentionally seeing the others of the world.            

1 Samuel 16:7:  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.