I heard this question this morning during church. The pastor described those who see the judgment or more violent stories in the Bible as proof that the Bible is a book of hate. The implication is that God is therefore hateful, especially the God of the Old Testament. But I think this view of God in the Old Testament is like looking at a road in the forest, always looking at the road and missing the beauty of the trees.
I'd like to offer up a concept on God's character, from the Old Testament, that I think most of us have missed. Here it is: God is obligated to love you. In fact, God is obligated to love you, in a legal way. Let me explain what I mean.
The secular concept of environmentalism and climate change activism is based upon the idea of nations exercising rights through occupation and proximity. If a people group occupies territory or is in proximity to territory, then it has a "right" to that territory and even possesses ownership. But this is not a biblical idea.
Imagine that space aliens came to settle on the earth. By our "being here first" we would say that the alien has no right to settle here without permission. In our way of thinking, we "own" the earth. But what if the aliens wanted to settle on the moon? Does man own the moon because it is in proximity to the earth? The earth needs the moon to maintain its weather patterns and eco-systems. Our proximity to the moon and our need for it would seem to imply that it belongs to us. The same can be said for the other worlds in our solar system. If they did not exist, life on earth would be impossible. Thus, our need and proximity imply right and possible ownership. If we are the only life in the solar system, does that mean man possesses the solar system?
President Trump's recent decision to abandon the Paris climate accord has many people on the left and the right screaming. I have to confess that I'm tired of the political railing from both sides of the political spectrum. I want to be concerned with things far deeper. Yet, as a Christian concerned first with the Great Commission rather than my secondary conservative political views I think there is something that conservative Christians are missing regarding climate change.
There is one place where liberalism and conservatism meet.
Paul recognized the State's right to execute when he said, "I do not refuse to die" (Acts 25:11).
Paul recognized the State's right to punish in Romans 13:1-7, but also our responsibility to be agents of mercy. We agree with Paul's description of a State's rights in Romans 13, but do we forget the next set of verses which command us to love our neighbor (verses 8-10)? Perhaps even the neighbor the State punishes whether in crime or in war?
People are not the enemy. Democrats are not the enemy. Republicans are not the enemy. Atheists, Muslims, and Buddhists are not the enemy. Liberals and conservatives are not the enemy. The media is not the enemy. Communists, socialists, and millennials are not the enemy. Obama and Trump are not the enemy.
Would it surprise you to learn that Jesus was usually nice?
Sometimes Jesus said some not so nice things. But to whom did he say them and why? It wasn't to any of the above.
He told me that he no longer believed in Jesus or the Bible. After many years of church involvement and even ministry involvement, my friend turned away from Christianity and instead decided to embrace Buddhism. His chief reason for rejecting Jesus was the hypocrisy of Jesus' people.
Such a decision always cuts us to the core. When we hear that our bad behavior has lead someone away from Jesus it stings. We want the church to do better We want to do better. However, I'm not convinced that the bad behavior of some Christians is really the reason why such people give up Jesus.
I've spent a portion of my last few years praying for and grieving for a friend who once claimed Christ as his own, but over the years abandoned his faith in Jesus. He went from being active in his faith to hating Christianity, the church, and all it stands for. And it all came to fruition when he made a single decision. He told me about it over dinner one night. "You know, I don't believe the Bible is God's word anymore." From that point he lost his love for Jesus and his life since then has become a religious mess. In fact, he has since become one of the most hateful people I know. How could this happen?
Stephen Mattson of Sojourners has written a scathing article accusing "White evangelicals" and more broadly, American Christianity, of failing to do what Jesus has commanded relative to the poor, needy, and refugees. Like many liberal writers who lambast conservatives or Christians, Mattson has painted American Christianity with a broad brush of condemnation based upon what is not only a foundationally flawed thesis, but a fundamentally false one at that. According to Mattson (and presumably, Sojourners), "Mainstream Christianity in America has failed. It looks nothing like Jesus." He goes on to challenge Christians by saying, "What benefit are Christians providing their communities, and what good are they contributing to the world around them? Because in America, it appears that the sole purpose of Christianity is to selfishly protect people’s own self-interests instead of sacrificially serving others."
Have you ever told someone you loved him or her with all your heart? You probably have. But have you ever told someone that you love him or her with all of your mind? I just told my wife that. She laughed at me. When I asked her why she laughed she responded that it was funny to hear because usually we say we love someone with all of our heart, not mind. But would it surprise you to know that we are commanded to love with our minds? This command is from one of the most famous passages in the Bible, but we don't usually think in this way. Matthew 22:37 says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
Now, let's skip over the heart for a moment. We are all familiar with loving God and one another with our hearts (our emotions). And we can think of a few ways to love someone with our strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)—physical protection, serving a physical need, sex, and so on. But how do you love someone with "All of your mind?"