RELIGION ROUNDTABLE

God is the same from beginning to end

First of all, we need to establish that God is a God that does not change. Malachi 3:6 reads, “For I am the Lord, I change not.”

The God of the New Testament is a God of love (1 John 4:8). He is also a God of correction who will deal with sin; take a look at Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They lied to the Holy Spirit and God dealt with them on the spot.

The Book of Hebrews tells us that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of a Living God (Hebrews 10:31). The Old Testament scriptures describe him as merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in mercy.

Nehemiah 9:17 describes God as being a God of patience and great mercy. He stated that the Nation of Israel acted proudly and hardened their necks and did not obey God’s commandments, but God was ready to pardon them. He was gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and did not forsake them.

David stated in Psalm 145:9 that “The Lord is good to all and his tender mercies are over all his works.”

Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today and forever.”

Knowing that God’s word is true, we can say there has not been, nor will there ever be, a shift in God’s character. God is the same from Genesis to Revelation.

— Winfred Logan, Heart to Heart Ministries

God was loving from the very beginning

The story of both the Old and New Testaments is a love story between the Creator and humanity. It is a story of disappointments, turning away, repenting and renewal.

As I read the violent stories, I suspect Babylonian religious ideas drifted into the Hebrew mindset, just as Greek philosophy influenced the New Testament religion.

Biblical writers were not immune to cultural influences. To understand the context of Genesis, it is helpful to compare the creation stories of Babylonian and Israel.

Creation is viewed as an act of violence by a violent god in the Babylonian story, which produces humans as natural killers.

The Hebrew creation story states that a good and loving God created a good and loving creation. Evil and violence are not part of creation, but evil and sin are problems that require redemption.

The Old Testament writers describe God as “merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love … forgiving sin” (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 103:8-10).

Jesus certainly knew the stories of conquest and violence, but emphasized the loving nature of God and called his followers to love their enemies and be peacemakers.

To help disciples understand the nature of God, he told the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Loving Father (Luke 15:11-32).

Jesus is the best expression of God we have, and he emphasizes both a loving God and a judgmental God we should fear (Luke 12:5). Since Christians interpret all of scripture through the lens of Jesus, I read the violent passages and believe the main story is one of love.

— Dale Clem, First United Methodist Church, Anniston

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