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The Meaning of Sacrifice: God Made Me Do It
The Lord Will Provide
When Abraham led Isaac onto a mountain in the days of the Old Testament, he did so with the intention of fulfilling God's Will without question. Since we know the outcome of the story, we are able to look upon the story as an example of a man trusting God, but surely there was much turmoil in Abraham's heart as he walked with his son up those mountainous slopes. Did he wonder why would God ask such a thing? Did he feel anger at the sacrifice he was being asked to make? Or did he believe in his heart that God would provide a means for his son to be spared?
I am not writing this to get into debates about whether or not God exists or, if so, whose God is right or wrong. So for this hub, please go on the assumption that God, as portrayed in the Bible and, in particular, in the Old Testament, is indeed the Supreme Being and that generally speaking the Bible itself is true and factual or at least allegorically accurate. With this in mind, we would have to remember that Abraham lived in a different time when miracles were not unheard of and God was not questioned when he spoke to his children. Considering this, perhaps we can see where Abraham found the faith to carry out a mission that probably seemed to him to be insane.
But times have changed. When someone says God has spoken to them these days, generally we do not take it to be a literal voice. We see the possibility of God actually speaking to someone as either a case of mental illness or ahe plot for a movie, usually a comedy starring George Burns or Morgan Freeman. When someone today says God has told them to sacrifice a child, we lock that person away and as far as I know there has never been a case of God overriding the court's decision. But that does not mean sane men do not feel they are called upon to make sacrifices.
What Will You Sacrifice?
Many men, as well as many women, today make career choices, lifestyle changes, and everyday decisions based on what they feel God is calling them to do. Many of these choices, changes and decision involve some degree of sacrifice. Maybe it is giving up something you enjoy but feel is unhealthy, donating more time or money to a cause you are passionate about, or not hanging around with that one friend who never seems to grow up and always has the potential to lead you astray. But then there are those who are even willing to go further, willing to make what is sometimes referred to as the ultimate sacrifice.
Certainly people make decisions based on other reasons, but a large number of law enforcement officers, first responders, military personnel, and others in occupations that are considered high risk are there because they believe it is God's Will that they do their part to make the world a better place. They put their lives on the line day in and day out and, if it comes down to sacrificing their life to do their part, well... "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
But any parent will tell you that sacrificing your life is not the hardest thing you could be asked to give up. Certainly the ultimate sacrifice would be the sacrifice of a child. Indeed, many parents may feel their children have been sacrificed -- to war, to crime, to drunken drivers. Lives taken away before they could even bloom. But what if you were asked to make a conscious decision, to take a knife in your hand and plunge it into the heart of your child? Would you even consider this in this day and age?
Would the Cost Ever Be Too High?
When you look at cold, hard facts, the lines can sometimes get blurrier rather than clearer. First, if God spoke to you asking you to offer the life of your child, how would you know you had not gone insane? Certainly that would be most people's first reaction if someone told them they were literally hearing God's Voice. With God knowing this, why would He put someone in that position? This thought might give us comfort for a moment believing this situation would never occur, but let's face it, stranger things have happened. Certainly there was a reason Abraham did not tell those around him what his plans were.
Maybe things would not be as simple as a divine voice whispering in your ear, telling you to whip out a blade and slice and dice that which you hold most dear. What if it were more along the lines of a feeling inside that you know what God wants you to do, a sense that you know what is right or even a conviction that this sacrifice must be made for the "greater good"? What if...
- ...the only way to save the rest of your family was to sacrifice one child?
- ...the only way to save the world was to sacrifice your child?
- ...you knew you must sacrifice the child to save his eternal soul?
- ...sacrificing the child would spare it horrible pain and suffering?
There could be many scenarios that are not so cut-and-dried and it is difficult to know what you might do in a hypothetical situation where you do not know what your options would be. If we accept that there would be a cost to refusing God, and going on our earlier assumption for this hub that God is real and his actions a part of reality, would there not be some logical point at which denying God's Will would in fact be the insane reaction?
What Would Jesus Do?
But even if we accept that there might be some point at which making the sacrifice of a child would be the morally correct decision even if we might feel it were immoral of God to put us in that position, could we really bring ourselves to do it? Famine will kill nine out of ten people in the world unless you sacrifice your child! Death will come to every first born son unless you sacrifice your son? Give your son unto God lest the world burn in eternal fire and every soul is lost to Heaven forever...
It makes you wonder, what would Jesus do? He gave such a precious gift when he gave his life for the sins of man, but what if God had asked him to sacrifice the lives of the twelve apostles as well? Would he have been as willing to lead the others to the grave as he was to walk that path alone? Or what if God had told him that man must also offer their children as a sacrifice in addition to his sacrifice? Would Jesus have done this willingly?
Again we see that self sacrifice may not truly be the ultimate sacrifice. This is at it should be for if we are to be truly worthy creatures we must put others -- friends, family, strangers, the children of war -- before ourselves. The sad thing is that so few of us do this on a routine basis. When we let children go hungry or let them suffer the cold unprotected, when we look the other way as they are abused or turn our backs to their cries, is this not a most cruel form of sacrifice? And we are not even sacrificing them to a demanding God, but instead to a heartless world.
Would you sacrifice a child if God told you to? It seems such a simple question on the surface, but in the context of the Christian belief system, is it really that simple? As man has matured, his sense of morality and justice has certainly changed. What we once accepted as the Will of God we now try to confront with the cold, hard facts of science. As we try to balance these facts with the spirituality of our religions, sacrifices must be made on both sides.
While it may be hard for a man of faith to explain where fossils came from, a man of science may have a hard time explaining why there are missing links in the chain of evolution. While a man of science may not be able to give an acceptable answer as to what was there before the creation of the universe, a man of faith can accept that God is eternal and has always been there. When the Voice of God commands a believer to kill, a man of science will understandably not be able to accept this. Neither will many men of God.
So what would I do if God asked me to sacrifice my child and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was indeed God asking me to do this? I would first offer myself instead. But if that would not do and He still demanded my child, I suppose I would know that the price for refusing him would be too great to bear for both myself and my child, quite possibly for the world, and, with a heavy heart, I would take the action He demanded. But I would pray to that same God that someone would stop me before I lost what was most precious to me, and in the end, no matter what the cost of disobedience to myself or the world, I still might not be able to do it.