Offer Or Command? What Do We Hear?
Thoughts on the First Readings
Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 12: 1-4a
Several weeks ago thousands of Egyptians revolted against a repressive government. They repeatedly told interviewers that they were standing up to their government because they weren’t afraid anymore. They left fear behind for a future of freedom.
As I write this, Egypt’s future is unclear. There’s more to establishing a free society than expelling a repressive regime. As we’re discovering, there’s even more to keeping a free society than establishing one.
There’s a longstanding popular understanding of Christian faith as a series of mandated beliefs, prayers, directions and prohibitions. Those accepting these prescriptions and proscriptions often do so because they expect a divine reward for their loyalty and obedience. The mystics of our religion, however, speak of faith as bringing profound freedom. Once a person accepts that Absolute Loving resides at the heart of the universe, she lays aside the idea of faith as a test of obedience and loyalty and never touches it again. In its place she discovers a security rooted in Love that renders her free to face any menace in the pursuit of humans’ fulfillment.
Knowing Absolute Love, the person of faith is free to love herself without fear, without qualification. Gone is the question, what must I do? It is replaced by the question, what am I able to do? Gone is the question, how should I act to please God? It is replaced by the question, how can I make God’s love more available to my world?
Faith makes us not so much obedient to God as an outside authority as free to follow his Spirit within us to whom we’ve totally opened ourselves.
We can understand in God’s words to Abram a divine command to abandon his territory and form a new nation that would honor God as he wished or we can understand God’s words as a new and wonderful opportunity for Abram to create with God a future for himself that he hardly dared dream before.
Did God give Abram a demand or a gift? How we hear God’s words reflects how we understand our relationship to our Creator.