Cuarto y Quinto and Beyond

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Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

Water Lily | Missouri Botanical Garden | July 2021

The Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program works. From it’s essential first step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol [or any other addiction]—that our lives had become unmanageable. To its breakthrough 12th step: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. This process has helped countless men and women conquer the demonic oppression of addictions of all kinds. 

The other steps may seem less transformational. But they are all important. At a LINC-sponsored Hispanic ministry in Fort Worth, I saw how steps four and five were being leveraged in a powerful way. Centered in Jesus Christ and supported by the church there, people were coming to grips with their moral failings and admitted to another human being what they had done. Confession is a powerful and freeing thing.

It’s also a biblical thing. James instructs, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16). John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). 

I love how this is played out in the situation between Abimelech and Abraham and Sarah. There is no hiding the fact that sin had been committed. Although Abimelech had not “approached” Sarah, there had been deception, and a dangerous path was afoot. And everyone had excuses for his behavior. Nevertheless Abimelech did what he could to rectify the situation. He returned Sarah to Abraham, and provided gifts meant to show his and Sarah’s innocence.

On some level you’d have to say that Abimelech made it right. And God healed Abimelech and his wife and the women of his household. Because Abraham prayed for him, much had been and subsequently was set aright. 

This is the goodness, righteousness, faithfulness, justice and mercy of God. And although we may not need to be in a 12 Step program, we all have hurts and addictions small and great that need God’s touch of grace and healing. You may need to start with step 1, grapple with steps 4 and 5 (cuarto y quinto), help someone in the same manner you have been helped, or somewhere in between. There is a path to walk with God and he will be with you every step of the way.

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