“Mommy,” Rowan asked, all wide eyes and furrowed brow, “If God asked you to kill me, would you do it?”
Rowan was about five, and we were reading his children’s Bible for the first time, the Bible I’d hoped would skirt around some of the more difficult, unsavory issues. As we finished the story of Abraham and Isaac, I realized that wasn’t going to be the case.
“Well,” I answered, “I’m pretty sure I don’t have the kind of trust Abraham had. So no, I wouldn’t. I would tell God ‘no.’” I reassured Rowan that God wouldn’t actually have let Abraham go through with it, but was merely testing Abraham’s faith.
I gave Rowan the answer he wanted to hear. But I also gave the answer I knew was true. The fact is, even in matters far less grave than the sacrifice of a child, I often don’t obey God’s will. I look for the easy way out instead.
I know I’m inclined to explain away or talk around some of the more challenging stories in the Bible, in order to make them less challenging, less disturbing.
I tell myself the story of Abraham and Isaac doesn’t apply to me. I needn’t worry about having to make a choice like that, because that was the Old Testament God. Now that we have Jesus, I reassure myself, God doesn’t ask us to make choices like that.
Even with some of the New Testament stories – like the parable of the rich young man, for example – I tell myself Jesus isn’t being literal, but is merely offering an example as a metaphorical illustration.
But I’m kidding myself. In re-writing and re-interpreting some of the tougher stories in the Bible, I am letting myself off the hook. I’m trying to skate by, to get off easy. I want to be a “good Christian,” sure, but I don’t actually want to suffer or sacrifice for it. I’ll take Christian-lite please, with as few repercussions on my personal comfort and happiness as possible.
But here’s the deal, here’s what the Gospels actually say, straight-up, if we don’t sugar-coat the message:
The Christian life isn’t supposed to be easy. And if it is, we are doing it wrong.
I know, I know, I don’t want to hear it either. But it’s true. God asks us to make sacrifices, big sacrifices, sacrifices that will have a lasting impact on our personal lives. And while those sacrifices certainly won’t require us to tie our kids to a stack of wood in the backyard, they will require trust, faith, challenge and even discomfort.
The road is not supposed to be easy. We can’t walk it half-way or even three-fourths and call it good. We can’t withhold even a little bit of ourselves. God doesn’t say, “Follow me when you’re ready,” or “Follow me when it’s convenient for you,” or “Follow me when it’s easy.”
God says, “Follow me.”
Questions for Reflection:
What are you withholding from God? Do you ever try to talk around the more challenging Bible stories in the hopes of giving yourself an out? What would obeying God’s command, “Follow me” look like for you right now?
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