After four months of studying and preaching on the Old Testament story, I confess I am ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth and to refocus on Jesus’ story of life, death and resurrection. Though I greatly appreciate the marvelous stories and themes of the Old Testament, I remain a devoted Christian who reads the Bible with Jesus-tinted glasses. I strongly believe that Christians need to have a basic understanding of the Old Testament story to fully understand who Jesus is. The God of the Old Testament is the God of Jesus.
Yet Jesus reinterprets some of the Old Testament teachings in a radical new way. For example: the Old Testament has many stories of violence and ethnic warfare. From Moses attack on the Midianites in Numbers 31 to Elijah’s slaughter of the 450 priests of Baal in I Kings 18, violence is often condoned by the Old Testament.
But in Matthew 5, Jesus reinterprets the whole “love your neighbor” to include my enemies. Here is how Eugene Peterson interprets Jesus’ words,
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. (Matt 5:43-47, the Message)
Jesus’ words certainly make more sense to me, but they are so a greater challenge by which to trust, live, and serve. I recognize my need for a saviour, a deliverer, one who can transform my heart, mind and life. I am sure glad God sent one 2000 years ago.
Lord Jesus, save us from ourselves.