17 October 2017

Sarai: Is This Love?

Genesis 12:10-20 | Genesis 20:1-18

So this is love:
to sacrifice myself,
my body,
my integrity
to protect you.
So this is love:
giving up myself,
endangering myself,
risking my own neck
so you can be safe.

I don't deny
that this is love:
to give, to risk, to sacrifice.
Yes, this is love:
to look for your best,
to want you to be safe.

is this love
when it is always me
always me
always me
paying the price,
always me
losing out
in the end?

You ask me to lie
out of love.
You ask me to endanger myself
out of love.
You ask me
to claim I'm your sister
to protect you, my husband.

And now here I am,
in the chambers of a mighty stranger,
unfaithful by force,
unfaithful out of love,
trading my body
for your safety.
Is this love?

Now here I am
a piece of flesh
thrown before a hungry man,
while my husband
cowers safe and cowardly
far away from me.
Now here I am
without you to protect me,
because this is how I protect you.

My love
you got it all wrong.

This is love:
when a husband gives his life,
risks himself,
for the sake of his wife.
This is love:
when you no longer need
to sell my integrity for the sake of your own.
This is love:
when my life and my body
are as valuable as yours.

This is love:
when it's no longer just me
giving, risking, sacrificing.
This is love:
when it's no longer just me
looking for your best,
wanting you to be safe,
but you
looking for my best,
wanting me to be safe,
standing by me
no matter the price.


[17. October 2017]

This story appears twice in Genesis - either it happened twice, or there's two traditions that came together in the Bible. The same story also appears with Rebecca, wife of Isaac.

The first version of this story (Gen 12) goes like this: Sarai and Abram go to Egypt - and Abram gets a bit nervous because of Sarai's beauty, so he makes her lie that she is his sister, so no one will want to kill him to get at his wife. Meaning: Abram is not going to risk his life for her protection. He'd rather risk her (making her more "accessible" for other men as an unmarried sister) than risk the eventuality of someone trying to murder him for the sake of getting her. What ends up happening is that the Pharaoh gets attracted to her and takes her for himself.

Abram doesn't do anything to stop that, does not defend his wife. Sarai is basically being grabbed against her will to become a fling or concubine or wife of the Pharaoh, and Abram would rather stay safe and does not intervene. Isn't this terrible?! (Plus, Abram benefits from Sarai being taken by Pharaoh: Pharaoh does a deal with him, pays him a lot in livestock for Sarai's sake. Abram is making a profit and practically selling his own wife!)

Abram does not stand up for his wife. God, however, does. God is the one who intervenes, warns Pharaoh, even brings a plague over him and his family. God defends Sarai.

Writing this I had to think of the description of marriage in Ephesians 5, in particular verse 25: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Abram's relationship with Sarai in this story is one of one-sided submission of the wife to the husband; the husband is worth more, his safety is more important, it's okay to risk her life, to sell her, to allow abuse to happen to her, as long as the man stays whole. But that is not the way of the Gospel. Ephesians 5 is often abused to uphold a "hierarchy" of men above women. But I believe what it is actually saying is that men and women are of equal worth, and that a relationship needs to be one of mutual giving - not just the wife serving her husband and giving everything for him, but the husband sacrificing for her as well.

A husband should never let his wife get abused for the sake of saving his own skin. (And vice versa.)

Picture: The Egyptians Admire Sarai's Beauty, James Tissot.

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