Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love – Gen. 22-2a (NIV)
I am a bit of a trekkie. No, I don’t attend Star Trek conventions, own a pair of pointed Vulcan ears or speak Klingon. However I can split my fingers in the form of a “v” and give the Vulcan greeting, “live long and prosper.” As even a passing fan of the original Star Trek series knows, the Romulans along with the Klingons were the chief nemeses of the Federation. What made the Romulans particularly troublesome was that they possessed a cloaking device that rendered their starships invisible and undetectable.
As in so many things, life imitates art. The US and other military powers have invested in stealth technology. This technology while not rendering jets, missiles and ship invisible to the naked eye, does render them invisible to radar detection. By the time enemies become aware of these stealth weapons, it is often too late, and the weapons have exacted their lethal damage.
The first two of the Ten Commandments warns against idolatry. The worship of golden calves, Baal and Molech is not commonplace today. Most well-meaning Christians are on the look-out for modern day idols such as materialism and hedonism. However there are stealth idols that sneak up on “good” Christians. These stealth idols come disguised as people, activities and things than are generally thought of as God honoring, but if our devotion to them is unhealthy they can become objects of our worship.
In order to have an appropriate perspective as followers of Christ we must live with a dynamic tension that exists. Scripture often espouses truths which on the surface seems contradictory but are really meant to counterbalance one another. Scripture teaches us to honor our parents (Ex. 20-12, Deut. 5:16, Eph. 6:2) and for husbands to love their wives (Eph. 5:25). But Jesus also declares, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26 – NIV). You can’t be much more polar opposite than these teachings, but we are to live our lives in the intersection of them.
Scripture clearly teaches we ought not to allow anyone or anything to rival our love for God, (Exodus 20:1-5). It also teaches that we ought to love our families. I think unfortunately too many well-meaning Christians get the dynamics and interplay of these Biblical imperatives wrong. Some unwittingly neglect their families in the name of zealous devotion to God. We’ve all heard stories of preachers’ kids who came to resent their fathers for seemingly loving the church more than they loved them.
Too prevalent today in the United States is what I call idolatrous parenting, where children are not only loved but unwittingly worshiped. I believe this was an issue with Abraham when it came to his love for Isaac and it’s easy to see why. Isaac was the long awaited child of the promise, whom Abraham and Sarah had waited for many years to have. It would have been only natural from a human perspective for Abraham to coddle and dote over Isaac. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. God does not promote filicide – the killing of one’s own child. Ultimately God provided a ram to be offered as a sacrifice in place of Isaac. God tested Abraham’s allegiance and what Abraham did have to sacrifice was his idolatrous love for his son.
Having God as the object of our love and affection does not mean that we love our families and others in a second class citizen, red headed step child sort of way. It is only through loving God that we learn to love others appropriately. In Ephesians 5:25, the Apostle writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (emphasis mine). While the direct application is to husbands loving wives, the broader application is that we ought to love others in the selfless, self-sacrificing way. Only in this way can we keep what Christ calls the greatest commandments, love God with all of your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mat 22:36-40).