There are a lot of really disturbing things in the Old Testament. Genocide, infanticide, slavery, polygamy, objectification of women... all not only occurred but often appear to be sanctioned by God, even commanded. Consider this example:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1st Sam 15:2-3)
Most likely you have heard sermons where the pastor would attempt to explain why God would command the slaughter of every "man and women, child and infant". One explanation often given is that God is holy and so could tolerate no "tainting" of Israel. But this begs the question: how is that any different from what the Nazi's said? The website rational Christianity
says that the demonstrations of God's faithfulness and justice to Israel "gave them reason to trust God even when he commanded them to do something they might otherwise refuse to do".
Again, this statement strikes me as extremely dangerous. Does that mean that when I sense that something goes against my conscience that I should do it anyway of I feel God telling me to? The potential for abuse here is staggering. But on the other hand
, if we simply deny this part of the Bible are we not either saying that either God is unjust or that the Bible is unreliable?
In the historical novel "Silence"
, Shusaku Endo
tells the story of a Jesuit missionary in seventeenth-century Japan who is faced with the dilemma of being forced between watching as his peasant flock was tortured and killed before his eyes, or to trample upon an image of Christ placed at his feet as a sign that he had denied Christ. The priest is torn in two between the love for his flock, and faithfulness to his Lord. His foot aches, when he hears Jesus speak to him,
"Trample, trample! It is to be trampled on by you that I am here."
When we are confronted with difficult passages in the Bible like to one above we are placed in a similar situation. On the one hand we are compelled to condemn the horrific idea of genocide. On the other we want to defend God's justice as well as the infallibility of the Bible. If we do not defend God here, are we not admitting that our God is unjust? We need to remember here the scandalous
message of the cross: God came into the world and was falsely declared guilty and condemned on a cross for the sake of the ungodly. He did not seek to defend himself, but was condemned for the sake of the unrighteous. Jesus gave his life for his enemies
, God died for the Amalekites just
as much as he did for sinners like you and me. Would not that same God call us to care not for his reputation but for the lives of those (not innocent but beloved) lives?
When we seek to protect an image (as the priest did) or a book, but in the process need to condone the slaughter of human life we forget that Christ is not found in a book or an icon, but in the least. When we defend the foreigner, the poor, the outcast, the enemy we are defending God, as Jesus says "as you have done it unto these...you have done it unto me
It is a good thing for us to seek to understand the difficult parts of Scripture and to struggle with them. But when we find ourselves justifying atrocities in our attempt to defend God, then something has gone terribly wrong. God does not need us to defend his honor and reputation, he calls us to follow Jesus in his way of loving so radically that he was accused of blasphemy and unjustly condemned. God came into the world not to defend his honor, but to be trampled for the sake of the lost and sinners. If we wish to follow him up to Golgotha, we must trample. So I will say, with my foot trembling over the image of Christ, that these accounts of genocide, of the slaughter of "children and infants", were not commanded by God and that this account in the Bible when it claims it is wrong. God have mercy, here I stand, trampling.