Angry, jealous, vengeful, wrathful. These are words used to describe the God of the Old Testament. Kind, loving, merciful, forgiving. These are words that describe the God of the New Testament. On the surface these appear to be polar opposites of each other and have led people through the centuries to believe that these are different Gods. Marcionism is a heresy that believed this very notion and the early second century Church had to deal with it. It has caused many Christians to ignore, dismiss, or outright reject the Old Testament altogether. It has led others to believe that God can change over time. God has evolved from a wrathful God to a loving God. This has been used to justify everything from women’s ordination to same sex marriage.
But the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. God has not changed. God has not evolved. God is the same today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow. God is eternal. He exists outside of time. More correctly stated time exists inside of God. Every moment in time is the same moment for God. Everything happens now and every place is here.
So how do you explain the seemingly different Gods in the bible? It is a matter of perspective. Where we see wrath God sees love. Where we see vengeance God sees justice. Where we see things skewed God sees them as they truly are.
A mother was boiling spaghetti for dinner one night. As she was cutting up vegetables to go in the sauce she saw her almost three-year old daughter reaching for the pot of boiling water. She screamed at the top of her lungs, “No!” as she ran over and slapped her daughter’s hand. “Hot!” she scolded. Every parent knows that this was done out of love. The mother did not want to see her daughter get hurt. She wanted to protect her daughter and teach her what she needed to know. From the daughter’s perspective all she saw was her mother’s anger. She did not understand that it was done for her own good. She could not see her mother’s love. All she saw was wrath.
This was the way it was for the young Israel. They were God’s chosen people but they were infants. God had to be the loving parent and do what was necessary to teach and protect his children. Where God saw only love Israel could only see anger and wrath.
God made a covenant with his people and was faithful to it. Israel broke the covenant at every given opportunity. God always forgave them and called them back to fidelity. They always strayed. Children have never been good at listening to their parents but they have never failed to imitate them. The Father sent the Son to show us the way. With the teacher living among us God had no reason to show anger or wrath and could be what he was – love. This God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament. The only thing that changed is the way that we perceive him. When we view God through the prism of a parent we can clearly see that everything God did was done through and with love.
My heart is full because the tomb is empty.