The Cost of Discipleship: When God asks us to do what we do not understand.
Read Genesis 22
“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love…and offer him there as a burnt offering.”
God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable. It did not make any sense, and it confronted Abraham with the possibility that God was a blood-thirsty, capricious God like the pagan gods that were embraced by those surrounding him. Obedience is always easy when we understand what is expected, and it fits within the parameters of our perspective. But when God asks us to do something that conflicts with our thoughts, then we question and doubt God. It is easy to embrace the teaching and morality of scripture when it conforms to the morality and requirements that we regard as reasonable. But when it contradicts our viewpoints, we balk and justify why we should not obey his word. This is especially true today when our post-modern, relativistic society embraces a worldview that conflicts with the teaching of scripture. Rather than realign our perspective to the Bible, we label the scriptures as archaic and tainted by the personal biases of the writers. The Bible becomes a conveyer of a spiritual truth rather than the basis for all spiritual truth.
The struggle we have to align our perspective with the scriptures is the same struggle that Abraham confronted. How could a God who gave him a promise be a God who then seems to snatch the promise away in an act that is both despicable and evil? However, what is remarkable about Abraham’s response was not his willingness to sacrifice his child. Child sacrifice to appease the gods was part of the Canaanite cultic practices. What is remarkable is Abraham’s faith that God would fulfill the promise even in the face of an apparent contradiction. In verse 5, we read Abraham affirming to his servant that “we will worship and return to you.” In other words, Abraham was sure that even if God required him to sacrifice his son, his son was still the one through whom the promise of an eternal progeny would still be achieved. We see his confidence in God’s purpose and plan in verse 8 when he states to Isaac that God himself will provide the lamb. Even if God required the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham was confident that God would raise him back to life. Abraham trusted and obeyed God because of his absolute faith and confidence in God’s plan, even if that plan required him to do that, which contradicted everything he believed about God. Abraham obeyed God by faith, not because of convenience.
This unflinching faith is what brings us to the heart of being a disciple. We do not always agree with what the Bible teaches. It conflicts with our thoughts, our perspectives, and our worldview. When it does, do we strive to conform the Bible to our viewpoint and beliefs, or do we conform our thoughts to scripture? Are we willing to trust God’s word even when we do not understand, or it contradicts what we think is true and correct? This is what distinguished Abraham. Abraham completely trusted in God and his Word that he conformed every action, every thought to God, even if it seemed to require the unthinkable.
As Christ points out in John 14:15, the characteristic of a true disciple of Christ gives uncompromising obedience to God and his word. This obedience is not measured by how we obey when it is easy and agree with the commands. It is measured by our willingness to follow even when it is costly and confusing. A genuine disciple obeys Christ in all things, especially when we do not fully understand.