We had a cat some years ago, that loved to sit on your lap. The difficulty was getting her off. Give her a push, and her claws would extend. Painful to the skin, disasterous to the tights! But that’s how it is with cats – threaten them and velvet paws are history – however gentle puss usually is.
In Genesis 16 v 1 – 6, we read the story of how Sarai offered her maidservant to Abram, for him to have a child with her. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe Sarah was hoping that Hagar would not get pregnant either, showing that the lack of offspring was Abram’s problem, and not just her own. However, Hagar conceived, and got cocky with Sarai. Sarai is now proven to be barren. She has lost the attentions of her husband and the respect of her servant, her self-esteem in tatters. Like a cornered cat, Sarai becomes vicious, and ill-treats her. And Abram is as much use as a chocolate teapot. All three of them mishandle the situation.
It was never a good choice to begin with, founded in doubt that God could honour his promises; but now bitter regret sets in for all of them. Where to from here? It’s such a human story. We see many examples in today’s society where people have made bad life choices, get into dire relationship tangles, and have no idea how to bring anything remotely good out of it, whatever decisions they now make.
Jesus covered all these sorts of situation in his ‘Love your enemies’ teaching in Luke 6 v 27 – 36. I’m thinking in particular of verse 31 – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” I’d just like to add a thought to that, which I’m sure is implicit in what Jesus was saying – treat others as you would want to be treated, if you were in their position. Often in these hostile situations, we perceive it all from our own perspective, and have no idea what the other person really wants or needs. Hagar had no idea how hard that situation was for Sarai, Abram doesn’t even attempt to empathise, and Sarai is in self-protection mode.
When difficult relationships occur, whether in the home, church, work-place, or out and about, Lord, help me to recognise the distress of my adversary, and treat them the way they need to be treated, so if at all possible, I can turn my foe into my friend. Amen.