We talked about Genesis 22 in Sunday School at church today: a familiar Bible story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If you grew up in the LDS Church, this lesson is typically the same: you talk about how Abraham waited decades for this son; how God had promised him seed, numbering as great as the sands and stars; how he and Sarah cherished Isaac; how Abraham’s own father tried to sacrifice him when he was young; how Isaac was probably old enough that he was stronger than his father; how the experience is a type of the Atonement and God’s sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all of us.
We touched on that today, then went on to have a different conversation, which I won’t run through, but will instead share a thought I had at the end of class and wanted to put together in a coherent idea. Here goes. I can’t promise it’s totally coherent, though.
Sarah is part of this story, too. The style of the Bible text is minimalistic, played down, and unembellished writing. We’re used to the sensationalized news stories thrown at us over the internet today. Reading the Bible requires a lot of guessing about what goes on that isn’t explicitly shared. Sarah is part of that guessing.
She isn’t mentioned directly in any verse in chapter 22. You might guess some things such as did she know or did they sneak out, if “Abraham rose up early in the morning…”?
But Sarah is mentioned in Chapter 23. She’s the first two verses of that chapter: “And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. and Sarah died in Kirjath-arba… and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.”
Keep that thought in mind. Immediately after the record of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, Sarah dies.
Now to another thought about the LDS belief of what we have to do to be exalted: it takes fulfilling certain requirements. God expects us to earn the highest exaltation. When the disciples asked Jesus what the most important laws or commandments were, what did He say?
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”
We’re commanded to love.
Love is a sacrifice.
Sarah’s sacrifice was her love: a mother who loved her son.
You have to be vulnerable to love because it is wrought with uncertainty. Will our love be reciprocated? What if those we love choose to hurt us? What if others hurt those we love? What if we lose those we love? What if we can’t help those we love? What if those we loved can’t be helped by anybody?
When we follow the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors, we sacrifice. A lot.
Part of our discussion in the class was to talk about and share personal sacrifices and how they had changed us. I couldn’t think of a good example for my own life. One parent talked about the death of a child. Another talked about an accident that left her son handicapped. Several talked about the sacrifice of time and leaving loved ones in order to serve missions. What could be my example to share?
I didn’t raise my hand, but by the very end of the class, I had thought of this. My sacrifice has been to love. We’ve all sacrificed in this way. It’s brought the greatest heartache, but it’s also brought the greatest joy.