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.
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.
- How would our Arabic “step-brothers and sisters” react if we responded to them as if they were relatives?
- What can we do to repair the broken relationship?
- What can you do to repair the broken relationship?
- 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?
If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.