Amen amen…this newest post from Rick at Following Judah’s Lion is excellent…
If you believe that the narratives contained in the Old Testament Scriptures are valid and at least generally accurate than you are faced with a problem. How do you reconcile the teachings and life of Jesus who was God in the flesh with those violent revelations of God in the Old Testament?
It is common place for many today to create some sort of amalgam in which you can claim to follow Jesus and yet incorporate certain violent aspects of the Old Testament narratives. This is not only problematic but it takes license where there is none. And it is the essence of spiritual hubris to build your own God with a smorgasbord of Scriptures with which you pick and choose what you like without embracing the superior and foundational teachings of Jesus Himself.
If Jesus is not the complete and all encompassing revelation of God then He becomes just another lego block in your theology. The Old Testament continues to be used of the Spirit to reveal Christ without demanding answers to the question of divine violence. “You have heard it said…but I say” must provide for us a template and a prism through which we understand the fullness of God. But what about the violence depicted in the Old Testament? That is a mystery and I myself embrace Oscar Hammerstein’s statement,
“Who can explain it, who can tell you why?
Fools give you answers, wise men never try”.
But even without a complete explanation we still must bow to the final and complete revelation contained in the teachings and the Person of Jesus the Christ. I suggest that if there are not some mysteries associated with understanding God then that is not the authentic God. How could God do some of the things the Old Testament Scriptures record and then culminate with the profoundly nonviolent teachings of the God called Jesus? I do not know, but I do know what Jesus taught and lived. And I am bound to follow Jesus and to understand the very nature of God through that incarnate prism. Yes, I do not know some things, perhaps many things.
But when segments of the visible church make Jesus into something that goes against what He taught then we not only have a problem but we have another Jesus constructed for the satisfaction of man. Usually the “sometimes violent” Jesus has a connection to democracy, freedom, and the American way. The “just war” Jesus is a product of patriotism and not of His own teachings. And professing believers will reach back into the Old Testament and sculpt a Jesus which commits all kinds of violent acts usually associated with protecting a certain nation and most notably the one called America.