I used to think about this all the time while growing up especially when reading the Old Testament. I was reminded of that today. I'm reading Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott and in it she writes about the story of when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac.
The story filled me with terror as a child. I knew my parents would do *anything* they believed God was telling them to do because that is how seriously they took their faith. I knew that given the same injunction by God, they would (potentially) carry it out. To the end if that's what God told them to do. To them, Abraham was a hero. To me, he was a callous, unloving ass.
The story still makes me uncomfortable especially now that I'm a mother. I would have to risk eternal damnation before I sacrifice any of my children for any reason. Now, I realize that some cultures and religions teach that this kind of sacrifice is sometimes necessary but who, pray tell, do my children trust more than me? I couldn't do it under any circumstances. I just wouldn't be able to go that distance to prove my loyalty to anyone. Much less to a God unseen. I have never been able to make peace with the story even though countless pastors have tried to smooth it over because in the end God did provide a lamb. But can you image the seer terror of Isaac? Do you think he would ever be willing to unequivocally trust his father ever again? Who cares so long as God was pleased, I guess.
And it always bothered me immensely: God is supposed to be omniscient . . . why does someone who knows everything need to put his disciples through such tests. Shouldn't God just know that they are 100% devoted to him? Other pastors have tried to say that it was for the good of the disciples, good for strenghtening their relationship with God . . . yeah, not buying that argument either.
There are many examples in the Old Testament that made me uneasy. The only books I could really stand to read were Psalms and the Proverbs. I was just always so grateful for the compassion and love the New Testament brought.
Photo Credit: Abraham and Isaac, 17th Century