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Genesis 16:6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

Let’s be frank: at this juncture in the story, Abram is little more than a self-centered coward who found the strength to impregnate a maid but not the strength to care for her or the son in her womb. Now, he’s got a seething wife in one room and a weeping servant-girl in another, and he doesn’t have the guts to do what’s right for either of them. In fact, he exonerates himself with a downright chilling message to Sarai: “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Effectively, “She’s your property, Sarai: do whatever you want with her.” For Abram, authority isn’t responsibility to fulfill God’s will in service to others; it’s power to fulfill your own will at the expense of others. Which, come to think of it, is the same rhetoric used by every tyrant ever.

So how does this apathetic man who fails to lead his own household eventually become the father of many nations? Because God is full of grace and mercy. And He loves to turn lost causes into heroes.