This Sunday's lesson spoke about the many promises that God made to Abram that were part and parcel of his call. One promise I found particularly interesting. God says to Abram:
"I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you." Genesis 12:3 NIV
When I was preparing this sermon I was tempted to 'interpret' this verse as suggesting that Abram would be blessing his neighbors by various acts of kindness. And that we could act like Abram and do the same thing too.
But this is not what the verse is saying, and it is not what we see in the ongoing story of Abram's life. Abram did show kindness, in particular to his nephew. Abraham offered Lot first choice of the land, rescued Lot when Lot was taken captive, and then pled for Lot's city when God was planning to destroy it. Yet Abram deceived both Pharoah and Abimelek, letting them both think Sarai was his sister. This brought God's judgement down on Pharoah and Abimelek's households--disease and closed wombs.
Abram wasn't just to either of these men. And yet God's promises of blessings and curses proved true. Those who treated Abram well were shown favor. Those who mistreated him (even if Abram tricked them) were cursed.
It would seem after all that Abram's call, wasn't first and foremost a call to be a 'do-gooder'. Abram's call was to obey God and to go to the land God was going to show him. The blessing that others would experience in relation to Abram, were blessings that would flow from God's hands.
Sometimes I think we have been convinced that our main task as Christians is to be nice and kind to others. While Scripture commends kindness and goodness (among the other fruit of the Spirit) the story of Abram would suggest that our primary calling is to obey God.
I wonder if focused more energy on being God's obedient people, and didn't worry so much about being 'good' people, that God's good plans and purposes would be advanced further. Could it be that others are blessed more by our obedience, than by our various attempts to do them good?