I never fully understood why God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The story can be summarized as follows. God tests Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his firstborn son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Abraham has absolute trust (faith), so he follows the command. A knife is drawn and placed to Isaac’s throat. At that moment, God sees Abraham’s faith and obedience are complete and sends an angel to stop the sacrifice. I cannot imagine the conversation Abraham had with his wife.

“Honey? How was your day?” Sarah asks.

Abraham sighs, “Oh. God told me to take Isaac to Mr. Hebron and sacrifice him.”

Mortified, “What?”

“Good news, Sarah. Just as I was about to cut Isaac’s throat, God stopped me.”

In biblical times, that is called faith. In today’s world, it’s called crazy. No matter the motivation, a requirement that faith is tested by willfully committing to killing his son is an ethical rupture. In doing so, Abraham ensures the father-son bond, including son-to-God, is forever changed. Negatively.

Tragically, many pastors ruin their families to obtain what they feel is a pastoral or ministerial accomplishment. Just as the Lord commanded Abraham, modern ministers sacrifice their children upon the altar of success. If you haven’t guessed, I am thinking of a specific pastor—the tragedy that played out is disheartening: A pastor and his son.

Searching for a morsel of acknowledgment, the son continually was in financial trouble. However, the father was too busy serving God. The past built God a kingdom of hospitals and nursing homes, but he abandoned his children. The son leveraged his father’s church connections and convinced many he could multiply their savings ten-fold. Many willingly gave their life savings. A decade later, and millions of dollars lost via deceit and bad investments, the son received a 46-month prison sentence in the federal penitentiary. Indirectly, by neglecting his only son (and family), the pastor tragically imperiled the retirement of 37 families. None of the relationships will forever be the same. 

Pastor, son, and victims will have to learn several difficult lessons throughout the years ahead, all of which we previously denied:

  1. It does not matter who told the truth because the pastor thought he always knew better. After all, the convicted criminal was his son.
  2. The pastor must publicly acknowledge that he failed, that he cannot fix everything.
  3. When we see the incarcerated, we tend to think they deserve to be there. When our children are incarcerated, why is that different?

In reality, every person is someone’s child. It’s a shame the pastor (the father) could only see his son in prison. He must pay for his wrongdoing. 

In my conversations with the pastor, it was clear his image was more important than his family. However, at the end of his life, the church members he served will not be there to hold his hand as he takes his final breath. His children and grandchildren will be left holding onto a man they begged for recognition but never received.

And thus, the question I ask is, what if both pastor and Abraham were deluded by a false sense of God’s call? What if the pastor had misunderstood the will of God? What would we think of him then? And more deeply, what if I misinterpreted my calling from God? What if I was wrong? Do all of us have to taste a profound humility and sourness of life to fulfill the patriarchy of family?