When reading Old Testament texts, the idea that the God who appears there is a harsh, cruel, vengeful God is usually the majority among Christians …
It is a misconception, a mistake that sadly precedes other more serious mistakes. With this concept, we have been served a version that may even seem fair and reasonable: if God is firm, that firmness can be turned into hardness and, from there, there is only one small step to an immovable God. H4 >
This concept is often deduced from a wrong reading of the Old Testament texts. Literalist and fundamentalist readings, which do a lot of damage. They damage the true meaning of the Word and, consequently, damage our relationship with God and with our brother.
This type of distorted reading has been nurtured from certain traditionalist spiritualisms to, no joke, groups as extreme as those who hold racist theories.
And yet, if we go to the first texts of Scripture, what do we find? What is the God who appears there like? Let’s take a simple look.
Right from the start, the Book of Genesis begins with a creator God. We wonder why does he believe? God doesn’t need to create, does He? In the previous entry of this training we saw how God loves and cannot stop loving. But … how can you love if there is no one to love? Could a God only be a God of Love? Impossible! God, to be God of Love, has to create. And therefore we can say, without hesitation, that creation is a work of love.
The God of the Old Testament, from its beginning, from the first chapter of the first biblical book, is the God of Life, the God who creates out of love. This truth is very important to be able to believe, and consistently act, in the God who is rich in mercy.
It is the same God of Life that we are going to find in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). We read that Cain kills Abel, that God asks Cain about his brother and that Cain responds very mercilessly: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” . But not in this part of the story where I want to stop …
Almost at the end of this story, Cain thinks and says that Yahweh sends him to certain death: “Anyone who finds me will kill me” (Gn 4:14) . But it is going to be a surprise, a pleasant surprise. God, who always loves and forgives, answers: “On the contrary, whoever kills Cain will pay it seven times” (Gn 4, 15) .
The God of the Old Testament does not show himself to be the harsh, cruel and vengeful God who, after repeating that he is so, we have believed him squarely. On the contrary, it is shown as the God of Love and Forgiveness, infinite mercy. It is even said that we can take this response from God to Cain as the first plea against the death penalty. These days it is a very current issue because Pope Francis, in these first days of the Year of Mercy, has demanded that the states abolish the death penalty from their laws.
We will continue in the next entry of this formation with the God of Life, and while we can ask ourselves and, if we want, comment here, how many times have we heard and, even, have we said that the God who appears in the Old Testament is very harsh, cruel and vindictive.