For the past few weeks, we’ve been reading the story of Abraham and Sarah. Today’s reading involves the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael. Ishmael and Issac are playing together when Sarah’s jealousy and fear for Isaac’s inheritance causes her to demand that Abraham cast them out to the desert to die. We know that when Hagar and Ishmael are exiled, God does protect them and tells Abraham that God “will make a great nation of [Ishmael] also since he too is your offspring.” (Gen 21:13) This great nation will become the nation of Islam.
Two innocent children playing, there’s no mention of animosity between them. But because of jealousy, they can no longer play together. Who knows what relationship could have developed had they not been separated. I wonder if that’s not happening today when we separate children by neighborhoods or walls… when we fear someone who is different from us. What kinds of relationships could they develop? Would there be peace rather than violence?
Because of Sarah’s fear of Isaac losing his inheritance, these boys will not grow up together. They will not learn how to cooperate and share resources. Do we let fear of losing what we have separate us from others? What more could we do to protect our common possession, the earth, if we collaborated rather than isolated ourselves?
I do know that at our core, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, are all related. We have a common ancestor, Abraham. We share the Golden Rule, a foundational principal of the moral life. And most, importantly, we were created by God to have dignity. If we can emphasize our common roots, let our children plan together, and not allow ourselves to be separated, anything, especially peace, is possible.