The Other Child

Possibly the most loved fairy tale in the western world is the story of Cinderella. You can probably recite it your sleep: an unloved girl experiences abuse from her stepmother and stepsisters. She meets the prince at a ball. Entranced with one another, she suddenly departs her new love as the clock strikes midnight. Undaunted, the prince searches the kingdom, finds her, marries her, and the two ride off into the sunset, happily ever after.

Great story, but it sure casts a negative light on Cinderella’s stepsisters. In fact, stepchildren often serve as the brunt of our jabs and jokes.

In the same way, if you share a common faith in Christ with me, you also share a stepbrother or sister that may wrongfully be on the receiving end of our abuse.

Read on…


Genesis 16:1-18:15
Matthew 6:1-24
Psalm 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-5


In many ways, Genesis 16:4-6 mimics Adam and Eve’s fall in Genesis 3. Contrary to God’s promise of numerous descendents, Abram and Sarai remained childless. In desperation, they began questioning the promise (see Genesis 3:1). So, at Sarai’s suggestion, they disobeyed God and Abram impregnated her maidservant Hagar. Then, after Hagar became pregnant, Sarai blamed Abraham (see Genesis 3:6,11-13).

God covenanted with Abram for the third and final time in Genesis 17. This is the most specific covenant of the three. While circumcision was common in that time, no evidence exists in the ancient world of humans covenanting with their god.

Genesis 17:17-18:5 is dripping with irony. Throughout the discussion of Isaac’s promised birth, we witness both Abraham and Sarah laughing. It’s no mistake that the name Isaac means “he laughs.”

Matthew 6:9-13. Matthew 5-7 is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s gospel includes a parallel account called the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). The latter sermon was given this name because Jesus offered this sermon on the plain, rather than on the side of a mountain. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer can be found at Luke 11:2-4.

Matthew 6:24. The word for “money” in this passage can also be translated “possessions.”

Proverbs 2:1-5. The theme of Proverbs is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This passage answers how we can find it.


I’ve read the story of Ishmael and Isaac dozens of times, but never before did I realize that Ishmael was a recipient of Abraham’s blessing. In other words, God promised to bless Ishmael with “descendants…too numerous to count” (Genesis 16:10). God even gave Hagar the name for her son.

Understandably, the apostle Paul draws a clear distinction between the child of Hagar and the child of Sarah in Galatians 4:24-31. But nevertheless, Ishmael is still the child of Abraham and the stepbrother of Isaac.

The descendants of Ishmael eventually became the present-day Arabs.

In certain circles, Christians show favoritism toward Jewish people, but react negatively toward Arabic people. Too often we forget that the Arabs are our stepbrothers and sisters.

I’m convicted of our treatment of them.

Muslims deserve the same level of respect that we give Jewish people. While not part of the Christian faith, Muslims share a common heritage with Jews and us. Granted, Islam began 600 years after Jesus—but they do see themselves as heirs of Abraham.

And so should we.


  1. How would our Arabic “step-brothers and sisters” react if we responded to them as if they were relatives?
  2. What can we do to repair the broken relationship?
  3. What can you do to repair the broken relationship?
  4. Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24 are pretty pointed. He said you cannot serve both God and money (or possessions). Do you experience a struggle between the two? What does it look like? What has hurt you? What has helped you?

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11 responses to “The Other Child

  1. Jillian Anderson

    In knowing Egyptian Muslims and Jews from Israel (in many years past0….listening to their identity related to Christianity, they saw themselves as relatives. This surprised me at the time. I felt no enmity from their hearts towards me or Jews or Christianity…and 1 on 1, no hostility from Jews towards Muslims. One day, I had 2 friends sitting on either side of me, one Jew from Israel and one Muslim from Egypt, they thought that was ironic and somewhat funny with me in the middle. No personal hatred existed that day. Maybe God smiled that day too.

  2. Mike

    I’m thinking about the discussion questions but the piece that jumps out to me is that the promises given for families and kings and nations were all future. After Abraham was long gone, and Ishmael was gone these promises would be fulfilled. It strikes me that most of us live for our fulfillment in our physical lifetime. We don’t think in terms of our children’s children’s grandchildren being the inheritance. What if we did? The disciples must have thought this way. Our Founding Fathers did as they planned for future generations to reap the benefits of their sacrifices. I am part of a selfish and sinful people.

  3. Doris

    I found it curious that the alternative translation for he will live in hostility
    toward [b] all his brothers.
    was or live to the east of… I will have to ask my friend at the Seminary – who is taking Hebrew about that.
    One thing that all “The People of the Book” have in common is prayer. I think in some respects Islam has that right.

  4. Tony

    First, remember that, though they are a majority, not all Arabs are Muslim. Second the first thing we could do as believers is to urge our government to get out and stay out of Arab lands. Most of the cause of their animosity is a result of this “christian” nation stealing the resources in the Middle East and then attacking them because a few radicalized Muslims did some bad things in revenge of those thefts.
    911 resulted in 3000 deaths. In Iraq alone we have killed more than 100 times that number and Iraq didn’t even have a connection to 911.
    Beyond that, we need to remember that Daddy loves all of His creation but especially the children of Abraham. Of all the people in the world at the time, Abraham was the one YHWH called His friend. Daddy does not like people messing with His friends or their children.
    There are not many Arabs or Muslims here in Des Moines, Iowa so I am, mostly, left with trying to convince my Christian friends that hate for a people group is not the way Jesus taught.
    That becomes very difficult at times as many believers have taken this whole “war on terror” as being some kind of holy war that is endorsed by heaven itself. Let me state that I do not believe that Daddy endorses the slaughter of innocents in any manner.
    Many believers fight against abortion, as well they should, but have no problem with their government dropping bombs tht kill and maim babies and mothers who are just as innocent as the unborn.
    It is much harder, sometimes, to love my brothers and sisters than it is to love my step-brothers and sisters.
    The enemy loves to get us angry even against injustice if he can tempt us to sin in our anger.

  5. Tom

    The idea of “mending” or “repairing” our relationship with these “step brothers and sisters” is admirable but absent from scripture (I think). Nowhere in the Old Testament or New Testament does anyone address this particular issue of loving Arabs specifically. I am not even sure if it was widely understood or recognized that Ishmael was the “first” Arab (are we sure of that?). For sure we are called to forgive and to be peacemakers individually, to Arabs and to everyone else. So of course I’m not saying we should not treat Arabs in love. But I think it’s interesting that the Bible never addresses this whole thing specifically with the whole Jew vs. Gentile vs. Arab thing. Maybe that is because Islam hadn’t been born yet. Of course there is the story of the Good Samaritan who was sorta’ Arab. I also think we ought to be careful not to mix politics with all of this. I think you can argue both ways on America’s role in the Middle East. For example in Iraq, yea we did take it by force. But there is peace there now and a very evil man who killed many people is gone. I am not sure you can argue either way that what we did is right or wrong according to the Word of God.

    In the NT, did Gentile include Arabs?

    • Tom, your question about Arabs being Gentiles is a good one. One of my Bible dictionaries defines a Gentile as a descendant of Abraham, but doesn’t bring Arabs into the discussion, although it would imply that Arabs are Gentiles. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, one of the most respected Bible dictionaries doesn’t even offer a definition of Gentile. But the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “it is commonly used for a non-Israelite people.” I think that definition is correct.

      But the Bible doesn’t discuss reconciliation between specific people groups, but rather all people, like you said. The Arabs weren’t necessarily Israel’s biggest enemies in those days, as opposed to the Egyptians and other Canaanite tribes.

      Great question, though.

  6. Tom

    Do Arabs believe they are descendants of Ishmael? Is this a fundamental belief of Islam?

  7. Tom

    I did a little research today and it seems that Arabs have a somewhat different view of Ishmael. Some Arabs believe that Ishamel and not Isaac was almost sacrificed by Abraham. The Qur’an does not actually even state who was almost sacrificed, Isaac or Ishmael. I personally feel that our “take” on Ishmael (from the Judeo-Christian perspective) is that Ishmael was the “lesser” of sons. Isaac was a better dude and as such, the Arabs are lesser to the Jews. I think we live with an inherent bias toward Isaac vs. Ishmael and that is why there are problems even to this day. But of course the Bible prophesied there would be hostility between their descendants. So no surprise here.

    • I discovered the same thing when I studied Islam in seminary. Muslims basically switched Isaac and Ishmael’s stories around. And I think you’re right about your assessment of the hostilities between Christians/Jews and Arabs.

  8. Tom

    It’s astounding that today, many thousands of years after Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, we as a people still deal with these issues worldwide (Jew vs. Arab)!

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