How We Live, Not What We Force

I am reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wonderful book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.  I could write a month of posts based simply on reflections prompted by what he has written.

Today, however, let me share this one simple observation Rabbi Sacks makes in talking about Abraham.

Abraham does not seek to impose his views on others.  Yet his contemporaries sense that there is something special, Godly, about him.  Melchizedek, king of Salem, salutes him with the words, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth’ (14:19).  The Hittites say to him, ‘You are a prince of God among us’ (23:6).  Abraham impresses his contemporaries by the way he lives, not by the way he forces, or even urges, others to live.  He seeks to be true to his faith while being a blessing to others regardless of their faith.  That seems to me a truth for the twenty-first century.

Abraham and his relationship to God provides inspiration for Jews, Christians and Muslims.  But, as Rabbi Sacks goes on to remind us “all who embrace Abraham must aspire to live like Abraham.”  And living like Abraham requires being “open to the divine presence wherever it reveals itself” and “never [believing] that God is defined by and confined to the people like you. God is larger than any nation, language, culture or creed.  He lives within our group, but he also lives beyond.”


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