Reflecting on Genesis 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18
If ever there were an example of why NOT to take some parts of scripture literally, it’s that first reading today. The story of the Sacrifice of Abraham (or the Binding of Isaac) has been out there for 2600 years, listened to around the campfire and proclaimed in synagogues and churches. I can’t find a single case of a mentally competent father ever murdering his beloved first-born son because he wanted to show God how obedient he was.
There is in us a certain filter that activates when we read a story like this. We say, “This is horrible, “ or “How can this be in scripture?” or even “Who wants a father like that?” But there is something in us that gets, right away, that this is a story told to instruct, not to be imitated.
There are other scripture texts that bring the filter down immediately too. I’ve known thousands of devout Christians in my life, people whose entire worlds are about bringing the Good News to the poor, and not one of them has, to my knowledge, ever cut out their eye or hand or foot because it offended them (Mt. 18:9).
I have heard of some Pentecostal churches that have encouraged believers to pick up snakes or drink deadly poisons in order to show the power of God’s word to save them (Mk. 16:18), but as people around the world become better educated in scripture those stories have begun to die out.
So, what IS the point of that terrifying Genesis story we read today? Maybe it’s that our relationship with God is the treasure we want to protect above everything else.
What would your life be like without the intimacy of Christ?
Kathy McGovern ©2021