Last week, over a simple meal, some friends and I were discussing the merits of the Old Testament. Can we as followers of Christ in the 21st century do without the Old Testament? What is the real value of this text to the person in the pew? As a Mennonite, I often struggle with the “God as Warrior” image of the Old Testament. Or even the “vengeful God” imagery. It would be so easy to rip those pages out of the Canon. And yet, there they are glaring at us.
Johnny is a close friend of mine who lives in South East Asia. He frequently shares stories of his displaced friends living on the Thai-Burma border. Johnny is an ardent promoter of just peace making. This deeply rooted belief has put him on various government target lists. He has been prohibited from visiting dear friends and places and even spent time in prison for this belief. As he watches his displaced friends on the border continuing to suffer, he asks me (his institutional administrator friend), “as a leader, how often do you consider how your decision impacts the poor?”
This question came roaring back to me last week. Here we were in Lancaster County, USA discussing the merits of the Old Testament wanting to rip pages out of the Bible to suit our perspective on just peace making. Meanwhile, the displaced in SE Asia find comfort in the arms of a God who is on their side and would be willing to fight and take revenge on those who were continually maiming, raping and killing their families. So, if we are to truly seek the welfare of the poor, should we be ripping pages out of the Bible or releasing our dogmas to God? – JM