Formations lesson for Aug. 14: Repairing Relationships with My Neighbor : Friday, July 29, 2005
July 29 2005 by Haven Parrott

Formations lesson for Aug. 14: Repairing Relationships with My Neighbor : Friday, July 29, 2005
Friday, July 29, 2005

Formations lesson for Aug. 14: Repairing Relationships with My Neighbor

By Haven Parrott
Focal passage: Genesis 20

Tangled Vines

The first year I had a garden, I learned the sinister truth about morning glories. See, morning glory and string bean vines look an awful lot alike. In fact, the ability to discern between them is what separates the novice gardener from the veteran.

So I just didn't realize, not long after planting bean seeds, that morning glories, with their heart-shaped leaves looking for all the world the same as the leaves starting to sprout from my bean seedlings, were growing up right alongside my bean bushes.

Then they began growing up on my bean plants, twinin' 'round and whisperin' their pretty stories, siren songs really, because before long those morning glories were choking the life out of my bean plants. It was not until the morning glories blossomed that I realized they'd been masquerading as bean plants.

I was furious, of course, at the deception. How could something so beautiful be so deadly? It was a tangled mess. And it was hard work getting it all untangled, which meant tracing those morning glory vines to their roots and carefully pulling them out so as not to damage my beans.

Tangled Truths

Abimelech also found himself dealing with a tangled mess, thanks to Abraham's deception. Ignorant of Abraham's ruse, Abimelech just didn't realize he was dealing with two separate, but not equal, truths until the situation blossomed into something real close to fatal for him and his household.

What Abraham told Abimelech about Sarah looked an awful lot like the truth. It was, in fact, half of the truth about her identity, because she was his half-sister. It was that other truth, the one about Sarah being Abraham's wife, that Abraham conveniently forgot to disclose.

But Abraham's failure to mention that his sister was also his wife didn't make that truth any less true. And so, the twin vines of Sarah's identity grew together in Abimelech's garden until God gave him eyes to see the danger.

I can't help wondering just how easily the words "Hey Abimelech, I'd like you to meet my sister," instead of "Hey, Abimelech, I'd like you to meet my wife," rolled off the tongue of the father of the faithful. It encourages me, albeit in a twisted sort of way, to observe that he who generally walked by faith and not by sight occasionally let the fear of what he saw eclipse the Unseen.

But hadn't God promised an heir to Abraham through Sarah? And didn't that promise imply that Abraham would need to be alive to produce that heir? Yet Abraham's answer to Abimelech's query as to why he'd failed to tell the whole truth, "Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife," (Gen. 20:12) reveals that Abraham's fear of death choked his faith in God's promise of life, thereby strangling the integrity of his witness to this pagan king.

Like Abraham, I too have let my fear choke my faith, resulting in the doing of "things that ought not to be done," (Gen. 20:9), thereby strangling the credibility of my witness to the non-Christians around me.

Dishonesty - not just not telling the truth but not telling the whole truth - always makes for relational knots not easily untangled. And I wish scripture recorded that Abraham, the believer, was the one to come clean with Abimelech and make restitution. He didn't, and apparently, wasn't planning to. That fact alone makes for a real messy Bible story - a story not about how believers should act but about how we often do.

Nonetheless, by the grace of God, the choking vines of half-truths and lies can be traced to their roots and pulled out, making growth once again possible.

7/29/2005 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott | with 0 comments

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