By: Pastor Jarren Rogers
I’ve heard some people say they’re big fans of Jesus, but they disapprove of the Old Testament God. To them, Jesus if full of love, grace, and forgiveness, but Yahweh is vengeful, judgmental, and destructive. Where Jesus would enter Samaria to teach and to heal, Yahweh would much rather smite it.
While I can see where these people are coming from, I take issue with their assumption that Yahweh is nothing like Jesus. We know that Jesus is God in the flesh. If you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus.
But Jesus isn’t the “better” picture of God as opposed to the Old Testament portrait. All throughout Scripture, the text points us to different facets and images of God’s nature. And it’s important that we take each of them seriously, not allowing one to supersede another.
To say that the Old Testament doesn’t talk about the “good” characteristics of God is simply untrue. Take Psalm 103, for example:
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”
Keep in mind, this Scripture is in the Old Testament. David describes God as full of grace and love. He doesn’t treat us as we deserve, but instead sees us as His good creations, valuable, dignified, and full of potential.
It’s easy to pin the Yahweh down as angry and vengeful because many times, that’s the lens through which we see the world. If someone does something wrong, they deserve punishment. If someone hurts us, we believe they should get what’s coming to them. If someone uses us as a stepping stone to a higher position, we love to sit back and wait for them to fall.
When we live lives marked by vengeance and hate, why wouldn’t we see God that way as well?
But what if we learned to see our enemies through the eyes of God. If David is right, and God is full of mercy and grace, then that means His forgiveness is not just extended to you, but your enemies as well. If God’s grace is enough for your big mistakes, it’s enough for theirs as well. If you are no longer accountable for your sins, and they are removed from you as far as at the east is from the west, then you can say the same for the sins of your biggest critic.
It’s easy to see God and the world as vindictive and spiteful. It’s easy to wish destruction on your enemies and grow bitter while waiting to see them fail. But with such a bleak perspective on life, you will always remain unhappy. You bear the burdens of unforgiveness in your own heart even though God has removed such burdens from His own.
Allow God’s Spirit to show you the depths of His forgiveness for you. Be freed from the bitterness and burdens you bear when you come to see God’s love in a new way. When you peer at the world through the fullness of God’s grace, suddenly, God doesn’t look so mean and vengeful, and neither do you. Now, you understand why your enemies are just as deserving of forgiveness as you.
Because that’s just who God is: overflowing with grace and love.