By Scott Gunn
With today’s readings, things start to go awry in a big way. We encounter the Bible’s first murder. As people multiply on the face of the earth, their evil deeds increase. But we also get our first real hero, as Noah follows God’s commandments.
In our New Testament, our curtain opens on the scene with the wise men visiting the child Jesus. The message is clear: this savior is not just for a few people in one particular nation, but for the whole world. But that same fact represents a threat to the established order; Herod’s fear runs to epic proportions.
Puzzling out the murder of innocent children is enough to keep a reader up at night. How could God allow this? Why do the pages of the Bible contain these grim stories? Where is God in great tragedy? Of course, these questions are not just for the pages of the Bible. The front page of any newspaper reveals a world of violence, fear, and exploitation. Where is God in our world?
As we read the Bible, we have an opportunity to step back to see a God whose saving purposes for humanity are evident over the sweeping range of the biblical story. This same God gives humanity the freedom to worship, to love God. And God leaves us the choice to disobey, at great cost to ourselves and to our world.
We do well to read very difficult passages in the context of the wider narrative. This will not excuse or minimize every terrible act. But we can see a loving God, who at the very least weeps with us and with all those who suffer. Seeing God at work in the Bible can help us see God in our world too.
Do you find the violence of some biblical stories disturbing? Is this more or less troubling than violence in a newspaper? Why?
We don’t focus on the flight into Egypt and the slaughter of innocents much at Christmastime. How might our image of Jesus be different if these parts of his life’s story were more prominent?
God of love, reveal yourself to me even when it seems that the world has turned far from you, through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Amen.