Going all "Old Testament" vs. going all "New Testament"

A certain mega-church pastor once spoke from the pulpit his desire to go "all Old Testament" on some people who disagreed with him. The Old Testament (OT) is associated with an eye for eye, tooth for tooth justice as well as genocidal invasions. It's ostensibly blessed by God, but the teachings of Jesus, that contradict or overrule those approaches to enemies (them, the others, the outsiders) make so much of the Old Testament seem barbaric. And, in fact, it was barbaric. One defense of the barbaric OT is that the evidence of the ancient near east (ANE) shows a place even more barbaric than the Israelite culture. Regardless, there is the theology of love that also coexists with the barbaric. These verses are the ones the later prophets pick up on. Even some of the Apocrypha (the inter-testamental books) picks up on these as well. And it's these verses that Jesus focuses on.

Loving our neighbor is a diamond in the rough Old Testament, but it gets buried in the surroundings of eye for eye, tooth for tooth, don't leave anything alive, running neighbors through with spears, raping guests, etc. Jesus elevates this diamond. He buys the field to own the diamond. the field is only the means to get to the diamond. Jesus says all the scriptures point to him. The early church took this very seriously and, like Paul did in his epistles, re-framed everything in the Old Testament in light of Jesus and his teaching. For example, violence against enemy nations was re-framed as violence against our internal faults, the things that keep us from the promised land of fellowship with God.

Jesus and the early church subsumed the Old Testament into the good news. Indeed, what Jesus indicated, what Paul began, what the church fathers brought to fruition, is the incorporation of the Old into the New. To go "all Old Testament" according to Jesus and the early church is to go "all New Testament" once the OT is viewed through the lens of Jesus. To assert God's support for violent justice against enemies today by appealing to the OT, is to view the OT without the fulfillment of the OT in Jesus. Before Jesus, the OT is like a black and white television, after Jesus, the OT becomes colorized and in three dimensions. Nothing in the OT should be appealed to by Jesus' followers without reference to Jesus' re-framing of the whole thing. Jesus changes everything. To speak about going OT on others, as distinct from going NT on them, is to miss the significance of Jesus.

Jesus changes everything.

Comments

A.C. Cole said…
Well put brother, I enjoyed this little nugget especially, "For example, violence against enemy nations was re-framed as violence against our internal faults, the things that keep us from the promised land of fellowship with God."
John Umland said…
Thank you for the encouragement A.C.

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