Imagine, for a moment, that you’re in college and your boyfriend is rushing a fraternity. You two have been dating for awhile, and you really like him a lot. He’s a total gentleman, you get along great together, and He loves the Lord. He even feels called to the fraternity as his mission field, and hopes to be a light in that particular darkness.
But one day your relationship takes a horrible turn. He calls you over to his fraternity house and makes a shocking proposition. Apparently all his potential frat brothers think you are really hot, and they’ve decided that he can only join the fraternity if you agree to sleep with them. So your boyfriend has now come to you, pleading that you will cooperate. “Please!” he begs. “They won’t let me pledge if you don’t do this! I know this is a lot to ask, but imagine the ministry opportunity!”
Sound crazy? That’s because it is.
Think this could never happen? Think again. This is exactly what Abraham did to Sarah in Genesis 12. The couple was traveling into Egypt, and Abraham feared he would be killed because Sarah was so desirable. So what does he do? He saves his own hide by handing her over to Pharaoh. When he should have been protecting her, he instead gains acceptance at her expense.
This is a story that we are pretty familiar with, but the tragedy of it often escapes us. We tend to blow it off as if the moral standards at that time were a lot more fluid. A man prostituting his wife somehow seemed more normal back then.
But if you can imagine yourself in the horrific circumstances I described above, then you got a taste of what Sarah must have been feeling. She was not only abandoned by the man who was supposed to protect her, but she was put in harm’s way for his own selfish gain. What a lonely place that must have been.
Clearly, this story has implications for our marriages, especially for husbands. But there is a degree to which we women should learn from this story as well. It is a story about putting someone in harm’s way to save yourself, and that is something I do all too often.
For example, I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve spent a great deal of time picking out my clothes for church. Some mornings I have tried on 4 or 5 different outfits before I found the right one! And during this process, a small voice in the back of my head wondered, “Could your obsession with looking nice be a detriment to the women who look up to you? Are you causing other women to feel a pressure to look cute and perfect and put together, since that is the example you’re setting?”
But in that moment, I prefered to prop up my own self-esteem, so I ignored that voice. And in turn, I probably fed the insecurities of many women around me.
In the world of women, we are often about survival of the fittest. I don’t care who I knock down or how I make other women feel as long as I feel good about myself. And in doing so, we perpetuate an unending cycle of bondage to cultural norms, rather than standing up and being different. We feed into an impossible standard of beauty, instead of sacrificing our need to be the best and the prettiest.
And in this way, we have continued the legacy of Abraham. When we should be looking out for one another and protecting one another from a world that measures our beauty according to waistline, we victimize one another all the more by perpetuating it.
Now all of this is not to say that we should rebel against our culture by wearing burlap sacks and refusing to shower. Heck no! We need to celebrate our beauty, inside and out. But we need to ask ourselves why we do it. Are we the type who will NEVER go outside without make-up, who always tell others about all the time we spend at the gym, and who will only wear clothes from name brand stores? If you answer yes, or even maybe, to any of those questions, then you might just have a problem.
Let us instead put an end to this story. Let us be a Church who thinks first of our sisters, and then of ourselves. Let us consider how our actions affect others, and whether we are victimizing our neighbors, as opposed to protecting them. All of our actions, no matter how seemingly innocent, have implications for the world around us. So when it comes to the Christian life and how we live in relationship to others, we should always ask ourselves–Are we selling out Sarah, or are we saving her?