There Is No “Old Testament God”

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?

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Is This Persecution?

Every one of us has our own trials, our own triumphs. We have things that are easy for us to do and things that take everything we’ve got – and sometimes more. We all face discouragement, opposition, persecution. Normally, when we hear the word “persecution,” we think back to Bible stories of Joseph being imprisoned even after earning Potiphar’s trust or David fleeing first from Saul and then from Absalom even though he was the rightful king or Stephen being stoned to death by Paul before his conversion, or Paul himself being imprisoned time and time again for preaching his faith. Or else we think about more modern examples like Pastor Saeed Abedini being imprisoned for years because of his unwavering dedication to Christ or the students at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, faced with the ultimate decision between life in this world or the next just a few days ago. Then we look at the “persecution” we face in our own lives, and we feel a bit ashamed of ourselves. There are Christians all across the world who are dying for their faith, and we look at our cushy American lifestyle and ask ourselves why it’s so hard to be a Christian here when, for the most part, we don’t really face any danger apart from a few nasty comments when we take a stand. 

While it may not look like it, there is persecution going on in your life. It doesn’t look like persecution, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. In fact, I’d say this type of persecution is even more damaging to Christianity than “regular” persecution is. You see, the persecution against American Christians isn’t waged out in the open, it’s waged within your own mind. Here in America, people aren’t imprisoned, stoned, executed, or really punished much at all for being a Christian. The main “punishment” inflicted on Christians comes from either the media or social media. Since these lesser attacks don’t seem as threatening to us, we aren’t as vigorous about defending our faith, and so we become complacent, allowing things to slide by that don’t seem super important. 

While those things may seem pretty trivial, that’s exactly my point. We aren’t being encouraged to grow, and attempts to discourage us are lukewarm at best when compared to the opposition aimed at Christians in other parts of the world. And lukewarm attempts against Christianity only call for a lukewarm response from Christians. But we should all know what lukewarm Christianity gets us (check out Revelation 3:16 if you don’t). 

So where does that leave us? Should we be hoping for more violent attacks on Christianity so that we can have an opportunity to show just how much faith we have? Umm…I think I’ll give a resounding no to that one. What we should be doing is taking a stand in the small things. Don’t compromise, even when it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Don’t just take the easy path when you see it, look for the right one, even if it costs you more than you want to pay. The road to holiness isn’t a highway, it’s a toll road. The farther you travel down it, the more it’s going to cost you, but it’ll take you exactly where you need to go. 

So in conclusion, no, we don’t face the kind of persecution that makes everything black and white, but that just makes it even more important to show those around you what exactly it is you stand for, because they won’t be able to tell if you don’t.