A few years ago I went through a crisis of faith. There were several friction points for me, but the crisis centered around the conquest narratives in the Old Testament.
I had been asked to teach a class through Joshua. Initially, I agreed, but when I started doing the initial reading through the book, I was shocked how violent it was. I had, of course, read and studied it many, many times, but for some reason, I had never seen it with these eyes before. This time I read it with eyes that saw genocide. The worst part of it was God was the One who initiated it.
I consulted with the elders. They gave me the Sunday school answers I had heard all my life. “Those people, like all people were deserving of death. They were lost anyway.” “God was simply protecting the purity of His people.”. None of that is comforting to me. It doesn’t even really make sense to me anymore.
This week it makes even less sense.
This week, I met, face to face, a survivor of genocide. It was actually a family who had fled their home with the hope of escaping the terror and violence. The family was missing several members. A couple were slaughtered with machetes and another executed in the street. They are committed followers of Jesus.
As I listened to their story unfold, I could not help but wonder if somewhere there was someone recounting their experience hacking the life out of another human being as a some kind of holy cleansing. I felt sick.
I have not solved the issues of genocide in Scripture. If I do, I have a feeling I could sell a lot of books.
When I first wandered through this faithless wilderness, I rediscovered faith, so I knew where to go this time.
I found faith in Jesus. I don’t mean faith in believing in Jesus. I already believed that. I found faith in Jesus. 1 John 4:16 says we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. We know love. We know the God who loved us so much He was willing to become one of us that He might show us the depth and breadth of His grace.
Grace demonstrated on a cross.
If God is willing (and He was and is) to give His own life for me, a Gentile sinner, then I am willing to trust He knows what He is doing. Because of Jesus who is Emmanuel, I have faith.
I don’t pretend this solves the issue. It does not. I am just ok saying i don’t understand. I don’t approve either. But like a child who must trust his parent, I trust God knows more than I do.
I can’t comfort this family broken by genocide with the protection of God. I can, however, rejoice with them that God loves them. I believe that.
That is as good as I can do. I hope it is enough.