Us Christians can be very confusing sometimes. We say all the time that there is only one God and He is the same today, yesterday, and forever more. We also say that our God is the epitome of love. Then, we look at the Old Testament with stories about God’s anger and wrath being poured out both on Israel and her enemies, and we tell ourselves that God is different now. But wait, didn’t we just say a second ago that God never changes? So if God never changes, but the God of the New Testament is different than the God of the Old Testament, then how can they both be the same? Well, I’ll tell you: there is no Old Testament God. And there isn’t a New Testament God either. There is only one God, and He is the same today, yesterday, and forever more, regardless of how our perceptions of Him change.
As part of Missio Dei, the team is reading the entire Bible from cover to cover in 90 days, which ends up being about 10-15 chapters a day. We finally started the New Testament earlier this week, and going into it I was expecting to see it in a new light after coming straight from the Old Testament. And I did. But it wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought that I would see Jesus as being even more merciful and kind in comparison to all of the judgement brought on in the Old Testament. But instead, I saw that Jesus was much more confrontational than I remembered from Sunday School or even my own readings over the years. I saw that even though it’s understandable that Jesus wasn’t quite what the Jews were expecting, He was much closer than we normally give Him credit for. He was a very passionate person, both in His mercy and in His judgement. Don’t get me wrong, God is love, I’m not denying that. But ignoring the wrongdoings of those around you isn’t love. Jesus loved the Pharisees. I feel like we don’t ever think about that. We know that Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but for some reason we feel like the Pharisees are the exception since Jesus didn’t really have any good experiences with them. We don’t see Him going out of His way to help them or heal them. We don’t even read it anywhere that He prayed for them. But He did. To say otherwise is to say that Jesus didn’t practice what He preached. So if we believe that Jesus showed love to His enemies, and in all of His encounters with the Pharisees we see Him rebuking and correcting them, we have to believe that these are both parts of love. Jesus didn’t accept them just as they were. He pushed them, He argued with them, He even called them a “brood of vipers.” But it was all done in the same way that the prophets of the Old Testament warned Jerusalem of impending destruction if the didn’t turn from their evil ways. Correcting them, showing a better way, and helping them to walk that path – even if that means being harsh when they wouldn’t listen – that is love. Kindness is an aspect of love, but it doesn’t encompass it. Mercy is an aspect of love, but it doesn’t encompass it. In order to fully love someone, you can’t just accept them as they are. You need to believe in their ability to improve and push them towards it. I’m not saying that you can’t love them where they’re at, but don’t settle with letting them stay there. None of us are perfect, we all have flaws, things we can work on. So if we aren’t helping our friends – and our enemies – to be the best they can be, what kind of Christians are we?