I just finished reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. She published the book in 1852 as a response to the Fugitive Slave Act, and it became the second best-selling book in the 19th C behind only the Bible. The story is basically centered around two slaves sold off the Shelby Plantation - Elize (escapes to Canada) and Tom (killed by the whip of LeGree).
The book only makes sense when read through the lens of the 1850s. In her time, Stowe was able to humanize the ugly institution of slavery. The white man of the South looks harsh and inhumane. The white man of the North looks too willing to look the other way. And the occasional clergyman looks foolish. Two groups of heroes emerge through the Mennonite Friends of the North and the Canadians.
Uncle Tom took me by surprise. I was expecting a subservient black man who mindlessly, and weakly followed the orders and wishes of the "superior" white slave owner. Totally wrong. While it's true that he followed orders (as a slave) he in no way checks his mind, and he never appears weak. It did not take long to realize that most public people who throw around the phrase "Uncle Tom" (see here and here) most likely have not read the book!
The most impressive characteristic of Tom was his meekness. Too many times we equate "weakness" with "meekness." Tom shows us the strength of meekness, especially in contrast to the "strength" of the white slave holder in the South, and the white law maker in the North. Throughout the book, the other characters are either drawn or repelled by Tom's meekness.
Jesus said: "The meek are blessed, for they will inherit the earth." This Sunday we are going to look at what it means to be meek and how to live a life of meekness. I can't wait!