The God of Abraham
“We think of “humanity” while God thinks of persons.” Mark Shea makes this observation in Making Senses Out of Scripture while talking about Abraham. He notes that God deals with humanity not as a group of nameless individuals, but through individual persons. God’s covenants are made through mediators, God saves through relationship.
We try to group together as many people as we can, compartmentalize them, define everything. It takes a village, but there is only the village and its demographic profile. Youa re not a you, you are part of a you-all. Studies show that people with X trait are more likely to do Y. Studies show that women vote this way. Studies show that men shop this way. You’re not useful as an individual, but rather as part of a group.
Myself, I am a white male in my 30′s, college educated, Catholic, married with children, I live in a certain state, work for a church, and get a certain ammount of excercise in a week. Now, what do you know about me, just from that? A collection of facts. Some of them are important, but none of them tell you who I really am. You don’t know how I like my eggs, or my sense of humor, or my favorite hobbies, or what I’m sensitive to, or how I’m not sensitive at all, or what my hopes are in life, or how I spend my time with my friends, or what books I read, or… and the list goes on.
With Abraham, God comes and meets him where he is, and deals with Abraham as a Person. He deals with Abraham’s hopes, dreams, hang-ups, temptations. His faults and failings, his simple faith and his impatient nature. Through his relationship with God, Abraham develops into a better person. As Abram, he is too impatient waiting for God’s promises, and takes things (or at least, his wife’s maid) into his own hands. Yet as Abraham, he calmly offers his son Isaac as sarifice, fully trusting God’s promise to make a great nation by way of Isaac (hard to do when the boy is dead, no?)
God deals with Abraham the person, with all aspects of Abraham, and through that person, gives a blessing to all (eventually, in his own time, with Christ). That’s why we talk about the God of Abraham, and not just the God of his group. Jacob is Israel, so the God of Israel is the God of Jacob is the God of Isaac is the God of Abraham.
Jesus, too, deals with the Person, not with nameless, faceless groups. The woman at the well, Zaccheus, the woman caught in the act of adultery: he sees them all as a Person, and loves them where they are, and helps them to get to a better place, to live a holier life. Sure, he denounces groups like the Pharisees, but he treats with Nicodemus, an individual Pharisee. Because Jesus knows, more than you or I could ever know, that each of us is an individual, a person, with a will and an intellect (large or small) and should be treated as such.
In our own lives, we should treat people as persons, not members of a group. Sure, that is a parishioner I spoke to this morning, but it was an individual parishioner with her own life and joys and struggles. Sure, the barista deals with coffee shop patrons all day, but with individual patrons, who want to talk about football, or who just lost their father, or who are upset or thrilled about the election. sure, you teach 5th graders, but a collection of individual 5th graders, with interests and temptations specific to each.
Our God is God for all, and in his infinite love there is room to love each of us personally. We should love like God, and see and love all those in our lives individually, as a person.