It is faith that elevates us to a position far above sin and every stereotypical notion concerning temptation.
Abraham is rightfully called our father of faith. Without the absurdity of faith, how are we to understand someone who is about to murder his son? What is Abraham’s temptation? His temptation would to be to refrain from killing his own promised son – the evidence of God’s faithfulness. For Abraham the temptation is the ethical. We are thoroughly taught that it is an abomination to kill, but then we encounter the Universal who is above the ethical. For Abraham not to kill his Isaac would be the thing that kept him from doing God’s will. Only the absurdity of faith can bring all our preconceived ideas about this and that to naught.
What we ordinarily perceive as a temptation is that which would keep a man from doing his duty. A man is to love his son, that is his duty. To give his life for his son would be the heroic thing to do. If Abraham did this to save his nation we might have understood him or if he did it to appease an angry deity even a pagan would understand his actions. But, Abraham is only a lonely man out there all by himself suspending the ethical. The whole scheme becomes even more absurd when we know that the redeemer was in Isaac’s loins. By killing him everything would be brought to nothing.
Abraham did this for God’s sake because God required this proof of his faith, but Abraham couldn’t find this kind of faith in himself. That forced him back to God, because such a faith proceeds only out of God. When he did God’s own faith was accounted to him and he became the father of faith. This is also the absurdity of faith: the particular becomes greater than the Universal. Whenever faith is mentioned Abraham is too. By his faith he perfectly manifested God the Universal as if they were one and thus he was far elevated above the kind of sin which finds its justification in the ethical. His only transgression would be not to kill his son.
This story can be useful to us just because Abraham was a human who faced with the impossible went through the precise same deliberations we do. How much hadn’t it cost him to see his son finally emerge out of the impossible? Hadn’t he seen his son grow? Wasn’t the relationship between him and his son costly? Self-justification and self-righteousness is always a part of the equation, but if those emotions do not lead to resignation then nothing is gained. Resignation precedes faith. And this is the absurdity of faith; whatever we resign is returned to us.
Let us not be tempted to think that resignation is that same as being lukewarm. If that was Abraham’s state he ceases to be a faith hero. His love towards his son didn’t diminish an iota. And it is love that makes it a sacrifice. Let us not either for one second think that the absurdity of faith is all joy. Those who have walked that path before us know it is dread, distress and the paradox. Who heard the angel save Mary? He didn’t tell the other maidens: “Don’t despise Mary. Her condition is extraordinary.” Faith is also a solitary walk unnoticed by the great masses. Even though Mary conceived the child miraculously she bore and gave birth to it as any other woman; in dread, distress and, for her, the paradox.