The Bible is often read searching for what God wants us to do in a certain situation. This leads to all sorts of problems. One may read the passage about turning your other cheek and wonder if God says we can’t defend ourselves against violence. When I write I am not hoping one picks a random sentence (aka verse in the Bible) to address their problem. The Bible written over at least a thousand years by numerous authors surely wasn’t intended to be used that way.
Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in facing challenges.
When Jesus was asked how to treat our enemies (Mt. 5:38-48), He understood individual circumstances vary. Jesus wasn’t saying parents or soldiers can’t protect their family or themselves: “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Jesus point is meeting violence with violence seldom works. The only way to transform the world is to consider the interests of others and not just your own during difficult circumstances.
Jesus often spoke in parables which allows discerning applications in our circumstances.
Jesus didn’t use parables to prove God can’t be understood by mere mortals. Straight talk often falls on deaf ears. When one is ready to change, parables enable listeners to recall matters intended to change hearts. A parable about not charging interest for a loan isn’t saying to never charge interest. Consider when giving without expectations of anything in return can lead to changed lives. We don’t have to agree on the exact meaning of a parable, but we can consider actions that can change hearts.
How can we read the Old Testament that paints God as a warrior or egotistical?
If we are to read the NT in ways suggested above, certainly we might read older writings in the same way. Writers or editors didn’t have in mind twenty-first centuries readers and their specific problems. How could they? Jesus never claimed the writers’ impressions of God were perfect from the very beginning in getting to know God. God can speak through our moral senses in knowing what a loving God is truly like as we reflect upon stories recorded.
What would God do in your situation?
I am not sure. Freedom doesn’t allow certain outcomes. What I know is God desires we consider treating others as we wish to be treated if in that person’s situation. The Bible wasn’t written so we know the right words to pray to avoid Hell. Jesus came to encourage a life worth living with fewer regrets. Jesus was seeking to change hearts which changes how we solve our problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties?
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