There’s a lot of violence in the readings today:
- A man curses God and is stoned in Leviticus 24.
- The Psalmist asks for payback, that God will tear down his enemies.
- Herod has John the Baptist beheaded at the request of Herodias’ daughter.
I continue to struggle with connecting the God of New Testament grace and some of His activities in the Old Testament. I used to sort of shrug my shoulders and ignore it. But that’s not fair to God or to me.
I do think one take on this apparent difference is true — not an excuse. I think things were different in those days. There was so much more violence and war and heinous death on a widespread basis. God’s punishments were nothing compared to what was going around. The other “gods” demanded child sacrifice. God used his discipline to establish a different kind of nation. Unfortunately, the nation didn’t always go along. It really couldn’t, not on its own.
They say that Jesus ushered in an era of grace, that His power indwelling Christians through the Spirit eventually brought about less violence where the church prevailed.
But what about the Holocaust? The Crusades? The Middle Ages? Right now in Africa, the Middle East, North Korea, to name a few? And totally pagan places that seem to have real peace?
I don’t know. There are pockets all over the world and all over history where there’s been the same kind of violence as there was back in the day.
Yet something in me says that Jesus really did introduce a new way to deal with the violence. God used violent means to curb Israel in a violent world. That type of violence wore itself out on Jesus at the cross.
Jesus brought with Him humility, compassion and love as weapons to fight evil – and the Holy Spirit to help us do what we (and Israel) in our power could not do, to live like Jesus did (sort of!).
So I do believe that where church is really the church, believing in and obeying Jesus, there will be less violence and more peace. I believe that parts of the West are still reaping the benefits of the Reformation and various waves of revivals that followed. But we are sliding.
Where will the next gracious influence of the church exert itself in reduced violence, war, and hatred, in greater peace, compassion, and concern for the “least of these?”
It will be interesting to see.
Leviticus 23:1-24:23, Psalm 28:1-5, Proverbs 10:17-18, Mark 6:1-29. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts.