This blogging endeavor that I have signed up for has opened my eyes to a lot of things in scriptures that I guess I really never paid much attention to before. I have probably spent more time reading and studying the Old Testament since February than I have in a long, long time. In seminary, I took a few Old Testament classes but even then I don't think I really grasped what was written on a lot of those pages.
The Old Testament should be renamed "A collection of stories about this group killing that group in the name of religion." I did not realize how much bloodshed was contained in that group of writings, but it seems like nearly every time I read an Old Testament passage for the Life Journal readings, somebody is killing somebody else in the name of religion. I think I've had about all of that I can take.
Now, don't get me wrong, there are great stories scattered in and among the slayings; stories of great courage and unbelievable faith, stories about the undeniable presence of God among God's people, stories about deliverance from insurmountable odds, but it never fails that before long... off with somebody's head. The sad truth is that, to a degree, those kinds of things still happen today.
I have said before, and I'll say it again, I am currently serving the perfect appointment in the United Methodist church. I don't have the arguing and bickering I've had in other churches. I don't have a great number of folks who have to have their way. I don't have the egos to deal with that I've had in the past. It's great. But I know other pastors, serving other churches, who may feel like they are stuck in the pages of the Old Testament, and one, or some, of their parishioners always seem to be after one, or some, of the others.
I think it's time. I think it's time we realized that if we are going to be the church, we have to be the church. Now I'm not so naive as to think that everyone will get along all of the time. The reality is that we live in a fallen world and, in the words of Mermaid Man from Spongebob, "There's evil afoot." But I do think that as the church, we are called to rise above that evil, recognize that we are family, and by dang, act like it.
According to the words of the Old Testament, at least a big part of the time, those who did the slaying in the name of religion did so at God's command. Maybe that's why so many people struggle with the Old Testament. To throw out a $30,000 seminary word, it brings up questions of "theodicy"...the justice of God. How can God claim to be a God of love when God seems to be the author of so much destruction? I respect that question because it's one I have struggled with myself.
But...enter the cross. How is it that the God who appears to be the author of widespread destruction and bloodshed in one set of writings, can be the same God who accepted Christ's gift of atonement on our behalf so that we do not have to face destruction ourselves, if we so choose? And how is it that folks who claim to be sons and daughters of that same God, can't put our own wants and desires aside so that God's kingdom can be brought here on earth? I think it boils down to genuine, unconditional love...its presence in some hearts...and its absence in others.
Forgive me for getting a little preachy this morning. And before anyone asks, no, there has not been anything happen recently that has brought this to the surface. I just realized as I was reading this morning that a whole lot of folks, in a whole lot of places, just couldn't get along.
So, if you are one of those in your church who has to have your way, or can't hear the needs and dreams of others because it might interfere with what you want...STOP IT! If you are one of the ones who feel as if you are constantly under persecution by someone else in your church family, remember, God has your back. It would be a wonderful world if even just the folks who march under Christ's flag could find some way to work together in all things for the good of the One who leads us. Call me naively optimistic if you want, but I think it could actually work.
Ok, I'm done now.