Thought for the Day: Does anyone else find James’ use of the Isaac Sacrifice story a less than stellar illustration for his point? When I think of the word “work” in scripture, I tend to think of something positive, life-giving. Abraham was going to sacrifice a child in the belief that God had told him to do so. I would suggest that Abraham would have actually demonstrated great faith by unequivocally rejecting the idea, suggesting that any god who demands such a thing is unworthy of worship. Of course, this is the difference between reading these words through the lenses of the 21st century and reading them through the lenses of those living in the ancient world. It is thought, by some scholars, that Abraham and his descendants would have known tribes and nations that required human sacrifice, even the sacrifice of children. The story in Genesis seems to suggest that God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but could it be that Abraham was doing what the culture expected him to do, all the while thinking it was God? Of course, God provided a ram for the sacrifice, changing Abraham’s mindset in regard to child sacrifice. The story from Genesis is, for me, a story of a God who wants us to pursue faithfulness, which includes asking tough questions that may push against long held beliefs. As I read the words of James, I don’t believe faithfulness is found in even pondering the prospect of God demanding someone to sacrifice a child. Faithfulness is rooted in the question that we keep before us at every moment – Does this (whatever choice might be before us) reveal the love of God, a love that is relentless and redemptive, a love that never seeks any form of violence to impose itself or shield itself? If a person can answer YES to that question, and then live into that YES, I believe that person is being faithful.
Prayer: Call us to faithfulness amidst all the struggles and uncertainties, especially when you are pushing us beyond what has long been held as faithful. O God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, we are the ones who should be ever changing, ever growing into the image of Christ, the image of your boundless and breathtaking love. Amen.
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Rev. Bruce Frogge