There probably comes a point in every diligent Christian (and Jewish) father’s life, when his son asks him this question. For me, this was last Saturday. We were reading the story of Abraham and Isaac. To be honest, this was always a bit of an awkward story to be reading together. This is probably our third time visiting this story. And as he stared at the picture of Isaac bound on the pyre of wood staring at Abraham with his arm raised holding a knife, something probably clicked inside him. He turned to me and asked, “Dad, would you kill me?”
To be honest, I was a bit stunned. I guess I should have known that this question was coming at some point. For about 30 seconds I was silent. Like a deer in head lights. I wasn’t sure what the right answer was. In the story, Abraham is represented as being great for his willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son. Was that the answer? But the truth was, I probably couldn’t do it.
Last week, I was tasked by my wife to pull Caleb’s front tooth out. She pulled out one of the loose front teeth which was a bit of an ordeal, and she wanted me to “share in the joy.” She gave me a deadline of Sunday. I told Caleb that he should play with his tooth as much as he could, because I didn’t want to pull out his tooth. Finally on Saturday night (same night as the Abraham/Isaac incident), I convinced Caleb to tie a piece of floss around his loose tooth so that he could pull it out. I told him I wanted him to do it, because I didn’t want to. For about 30 minutes, he valiantly tugged at the piece of floss. Couple of times, he pulled it hard enough that the tooth would start bleeding, but not hard enough to actually get it out. He probably didn’t know this, but I tied the floss in such a way, that the only way to get the floss off was to pull the tooth out. (Maybe there was a way to do it with some fine razor blade work, but essentially there was really no turning back… ) I had suggested all kinds of odd urban legend type techniques like tying one end of the floss to a book and dropping it. Or tying it to a door knob and kicking the door. Finally, we had settled on tying the floss to a bedpost while he slept, and hopefully he’d roll over in his sleep, pulling the tooth out. Luckily, my wife came in to intervene. She invited him to the bathroom. She inspected the tooth, and out of nowhere, she ripped on the floss, and the tooth came flying out. Caleb was stunned. I was stunned. No crying. Everyone was just stunned. The tooth flew up and ricocheted off of the ceiling, and was nowhere to be found. There was more laughing, than anything else. In the end, I was just glad I didn’t have to do it.
Back to divinely ordered sacrifices – I probably couldn’t do it. That was the truth, and that’s what I told Caleb. I wasn’t sure if that was the right answer, but that’s how I felt. That night and the following day, I spent some time thinking about the incident and question. I’ve finally reconciled my answer. Most of us shouldn’t be able to, because we love our children so much. That is what makes Abraham’s actions so significant. Abraham loved his son, his ONLY son, just as much if not more than any of us. In spite of that, his love for God and his desire to obey was even greater than that incredible love between father and son. What he did was extraordinary. Thankfully, he didn’t have to go through with the ordeal, but the Lord saw his heart and what he was willing to do. How Abraham must have wept – as he was journeying to Moriah, as he bound his son, as he unbound his son at the command of the angel, and as he stared at the burning offering kneeling next to his beloved son, Isaac.
I think it’s ok that I couldn’t do it. I think God knows that I couldn’t. He knows how much I love both of my sons. And it’s because I love my sons, that I also understand what He has done for me. I can hardly bear to pull my son’s tooth out. How great is God’s love for us, that he would let his son hang on a cross and die for us. Yes, I get it.
The following evening before dinner, Caleb and I were alone in the kitchen. Since I had been thinking about his provocative question all day, I thought I’d return the favor. “Caleb, if God asked you to kill me, would you kill me?” He replied that I was probably too big. Hmm… OK, logistical issues aside, “If God said he would provide a way for you.”
“Would you be sad?”
Well… let’s just hope that neither of us are asked…. But, there’s probably a reason that God chose the powerful image of sending his only begotten Son…. and not his father….