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The Need for Respect

Read Genesis 12:10–20

Life can present a married couple with tough choices. Do you take the promotion at work if it means traveling with business associates who have no scruples? Do you keep having lunches with your friend of the opposite sex if it makes your spouse uncomfortable? The list goes on.

So it was with Abram and Sarai. Famine in the land put them into crisis: move or die of starvation. So the couple relocated to Egypt to find food. But Abram made some poor choices there. Sarai was so beautiful that she was sure to attract the attention of Egyptian rulers who wouldn’t hesitate to kill Abram to get his wife. So Abram told his wife to say she was his sister. After all, it was partly true; Sarai was his half sister (see Genesis 20:12). And Abram did need to survive for the covenant promises of God to come true, right?

According to the prevailing pattern for women in that era, Sarai had no say about the arrangement. But how do you think she felt about a husband who feared more for his own skin than for hers? Could you trust your spouse after being misrepresented as someone you’re not? That kind of betrayal can drive a wedge between a couple that only widens over time.

In the movie Love Story, Oliver tells his girlfriend, Jennifer, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Maybe that’s what Abram thought after telling a lie about his wife. Sure enough, the Egyptians praised her to Pharaoh, and Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. But God rescued Sarai out of that difficult situation by afflicting Pharaoh and his family with such serious diseases that Sarai was sent back to her husband—and Abram even got to keep the livestock and servants he had acquired in the process.

One problem with never saying you’re sorry after wronging your spouse is that you are then inclined to repeat your behavior. That’s exactly what happened. Some years later, Abram once more passed off his wife as his sister, this time to Abimelek, the king of Gerar (see Genesis 20). And years after that, Abram and Sarai’s son, Isaac, did the same thing with his wife, Rebekah (see Genesis 26). So one wrong left unresolved between a couple only succeeded in perpetuating the abuse, threatening the very calling of Abram to be the father of many nations.

The poor choices that Abram made affected his marriage and his future. A Christian married couple can learn from Abram’s life that choices have long- lasting ramifications. To deal with poor choices, own up to any misuse or disrespect of each other. Deal openly and quickly with the sin; come clean with each other and the Lord, and ask each other and God for forgiveness. Then resolve not to repeat the offense.

 

Let’s Talk

• Given the cultural and gender roles of his time, should Abram have apologized to his wife for his treatment of her? What might have happened as a result?

• Can telling all the truth in a situation also be a form of using each other? How far should we go in telling the truth?

• Do we agree or disagree with the statement “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?

(John R. Throop)

 

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