We are not talking about cars…

March 27, 2011

I recently had a discussion on the killing of women and children at the command of God in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God tells the people of Israel, at several points, to kill whole cities. He tells them not to spare anyone or anything. He commands them to kill everyone.

This really bothers some people. Killing babies is wrong, obviously, and yet here is God telling soldiers to kill babies. How can God command people to do wrong? Doesn’t that make God wrong (at least some of the time)?

But let me stop you right there. Why is killing babies “obviously” wrong? Who says it is wrong. Some societies view it as a good thing. In ancient Rome, for example, infanticide was widespread. If a family couldn’t afford a child, they put it to death by drowning (or left it out in the street to exposure). In Rome, this wasn’t obvious. Infanticide did not end in Rome. Other nations have employed infanticide up until very recent times (e.g. China). It is starting to be used in the Netherlands and several prominent health officials in the UK have recently suggested it be used for deformed babies. Further, to be honest, abortion is a form of infanticide and that is used throughout the world in great numbers.

So there is nothing obvious about it.

So why are we able to say that it is wrong? For the same reason killing in general is wrong. Life belongs to God. When we kill the unborn, the infant, the elderly, the weak, the minority, etc etc we are taking something that does not belong to us. It belongs to God. God gives life in the first place. And this is why it is not wrong for God to take our lives when ‘our time is up’.

Most people are comfortable with this idea when it is natural causes (e.g. ‘God called him home’) but what about those Old Testament cases? Those are cases where God gave explicit commands to Israel that they should take life.

If you are following the logic, you will see it is quite clear. Life belongs to God, there is nothing wrong with him telling someone else to take it. If I own a car, it is wrong for someone else to take it without permission but it is fine for someone to take it if I tell them to.

But we are not talking about cars. We are talking about lives. Lives that scream and cry. Lives that beg for mercy. There is an emotional factor that is hard to brush aside with logical proofs. But the logic remains. The argument against God in the Old Testament has moved from a logical one (God did evil) to an emotional one (I don’t like God). Let’s agree that this is where we are before moving forward.

So, what do we do with the emotional factor? What do we do with the fact that we live in a world that is filled with death and destruction? This is really the point of the whole Bible. Death is the result of sin. Jesus dealt with sin. The end of time (and the end of the Bible) will culminate with death itself being overthrown. The dead being raised. Every tear being dried.

Is it possible to recompense the sadness that has been suffered? It seems like the answer is no. But every good plot has a moment in which it seems like there can be no resolution. I trust that the Author of this story will bring about the ending that He has promised. Goodness. Justice. Mercy. Joy.

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