It seems like little things are often the start of a relationship going bad. I’m not just talking about marriage, though it certainly applies there, too. But it’s not always little things. It can be some very big things, too. The point is that relationships are valuable and they are necessary for us. We were created to have relationships. Not just our relationship with Jesus Christ, but our relationship with each other, too. Too often relationships are sacrificed or strained in pursuit of other things. For instance, we’ll take a chance on hurting a friend to get an advantage in business. Or we’ll make a selfish decision that impacts our wife and kids because we really, really had to have that new bass boat. Or we’ll do something that will cause our grandkids to like us more, even though our children asked us not to, thinking, “They’ll get over it.” We should respect our relationships more.
But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. – Genesis 12:17-20, ESV
We know Abram and Sarai lied about their marriage. And just as Abram suspected, someone took an interest in Sarai. It happened to be Pharaoh and he made Sarai his wife. In Genesis 20, because Abimelech had a relationship with God, he was warned about the true nature of the relationship, but only after he and Sarai were married. In that case, there had been no physical violation of Abram and Sarai’s marriage by Abimelech. Here we’re not given such reassuring words here, so it is likely that when Pharaoh took Sarai as his wife, he did so in the way we’d imagine. As a husband, I cannot understand how Abram was okay with this and willingly went along with it. This is a big deal. But then I stop in my tracks because I remember that while I may not be guilty of this particular crime, there are plenty of big deals I’ve committed in my own marriage relationship. Maybe not big deals from the perspective of the world, but big deals in God’s perspective, for He commanded me to cherish and love my wife as Christ loved the Church. Big deals like not considering her feelings and perspective when I rush into a decision for the family. Big deals like not stepping in to help with the baby when we’re both tired. Big deals like speaking harsh words in anger when we are in an argument. Big deals like any time I put myself before her.
God has a lot to say throughout Scripture about relationships and how we should treat each other. But He boiled it down to one simple command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And when questioned on who our neighbors were, He gave a parable that revealed it be everyone, even complete strangers who likely hate us. That leads me to think that God values relationships a whole lot more than we do. Therefore, we should value them a whole lot more, too. Not just our relationships with our friends and our family, but everyone, including the complete strangers we may interact with today. It doesn’t matter if they don’t value the relationship back. It doesn’t matter if they do something that may damage the relationship. That doesn’t give us an excuse. Consider that we are sinful people and that we do things every day that damage our relationship with our Savior. Yet He is there to rebuild it and make it stronger. If anyone had the right to terminate a relationship or just to simply respond back in kind for the hurt and pain inflicted, Jesus does. Yet Jesus doesn’t do any of that. Rather, He continues to seek to draw us closer to Him.
Think about your relationships. Are they where they should be? If not, what steps have you attempted to reconcile and fix them? Are you involved in unhealthy relationships where your selfish predominates? Or are your relationships characterized with your love, understanding, forgiveness, and kindness? If not, would you consider what it takes where those qualities from you predominate? Are you holding a grudge you shouldn’t, given Jesus’ command for us to forgive? Why are you holding that grudge? Does holding that grudge help you or hinder you? Christ gave us the perfect example of a self-sacrificial relationship that looked for the good of others first. That’s what we’re supposed to emulate. The only thing stopping us is ourselves.