November 29, 2013

Violent or Nonviolent God?

The Old Testament depicts God in several ways, supporting both violent and nonviolent responses to problems. In fact, the text displays an ongoing conversation between conflicting views of the character of God and what it means to follow God. The Old Testament does not resolve that conversation.
In light of this conflicted view of God in the Old Testament, the story of Jesus becomes exceedingly important. As a Jew, Jesus carried forward the story of God’s people Israel. Christians confess Jesus as the Messiah who was to come out of that people.
So which side of the conversation about the character of God in the Old Testament—the violent or the nonviolent side—is carried forward and comes to fruition in Jesus? The answer is obvious. Recognizing that Jesus carries forward one side of the conversation about the character of God is not a picking and choosing or a cutting out of part of the Old Testament. On the contrary. Only with the entire unexpurgated story in view does one see that in fact there is an ongoing conversation.
But acknowledging the conversation brings to the fore how Jesus continued it. When we see the full story present in the Old Testament, it is clear that Jesus did not invent nonviolence; that is, nonviolence as the way of the reign of God did not begin with him. Rather, Jesus brought additional visibility to God’s rejection of violence, and the resurrection gave yet additional validation to a rejection of violence by testifying to the life of Jesus as truly the life of God.
-from "Jewish and pacifist" by J. Denny Weaver, Christian Century November 27, 2013