One of the biggest things that turn people away from Jesus is all of the violence in the Bible. People read the Bible, especially unruly books like The Book of Judges, and can’t understand how people can use this ancient book to guide their lives. How can people follow a God that commands people to kill everyone in a village? There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to violence. But there is also a reality that we were never meant to understand the ways of God fully.
1. The Brutal Truth About Humans
The first thing you have to realize is that we live in a fallen world. From Genesis chapter three, when Eve decided to step outside of God’s plan and eat the apple, sin entered the world, and there was chaos ever since. The next story you see is Cain and Abel, and the murder in that story illustrates how evil things can be.
Total Depravity is the idea that humans are sinful in their hearts from the beginning. Many other religions think that humans are naturally good, and they reward you for good works. The Christian does not believe that one can be naturally good. Therefore, we can’t be good on our own, and that is why we needed Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus also completely fulfilled the old testament law (Matthew 5) so that we would not need to fulfill the law on our own.
The violence in the Old Testament is all a result of sin. Humans do not naturally do what God has commanded. Over and over again, people do not meet the mark. You see this same thing happen over and over again in the Old Testament. God tried to provide a path for the people through the Law, and they keep falling short.
In many cases it is the result of God’s judgement and that can be hard to understand. Why would a God who is good and loving kill? The problem is that God is righteous so whatever he says goes. We as humans often want to be the creators of morality. We want to match God to how we think he should be instead of trying to understand who he already is.
Genesis 6: 5 – The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.
Most people can’t understand this because we think we are better than we are. Most humans look at someone who murders and looks down on those people because we would never do that. The same is true for every other sin you have not struggled with within your life.
God sees all sin the same. So Eve never murdered anyone, but she did not listen to God’s command, and that was a sin. Sin is anything that is not of God.
Romans 2: 11-13 – For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and the law will judge all who sin under the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
2. An Incorrect Understanding of God
Since humans think that they know best, a natural mistake that arises is thinking that you get to define who God is. However, the Old Testament lays out God’s character, and it may not always match what you want his character to be.
When you look at this thing, you can probably go through and say that God is or is not many of these things because of the violence in the Bible.
Let’s use love as an example. Many would say certain feelings define that love. But the word of God does not support this. On the contrary, God loved us so much that he sent his son, who was at his right hand and perfected, to die for our sins. So you may read the Bible and not see a loving God based on a world definition of love.
God is the creator of the world, and he is perfectly Just. He is the holy one, so everything he does is perfectly just, loving, and righteous (Jeremiah 9:24).
1 John 4: 10 – Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is Love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to propitiate for our sins.
One of the best things you can do is use scripture to understand God’s character and nature. It will help you get out of your own understanding that God is this really nice person who just wants everyone to get into heaven no matter what. It sounds good in theory, but you understand why it does not make sense when you dig into the Bible.
If God is perfectly Holy, he can’t be around filth and brokenness no matter how much he wants to. It would make him a liar, and all lies are of the Devil. So God has to be around only people who are blameless when it comes to sin. We can only achieve that through faith in Jesus and being covered by his blood. There is no other way.
3. Understanding The Wider Context of The Bible
You can’t just jump in the Bible and read the one Book and then draw a conclusion about the entire story. Yet many people do this based on even one chapter of a book or even a verse.
It’s like watching 10 seconds of a movie and then drawing a conclusion of what the whole movie is about. You have to see the entire story. The Bible is not 66 books that have nothing to do with each other. Instead, they are 66 books all telling one story.
For example, in the famous story in Exodus when God is using Moses to free his people. God says that he will only save the firstborns that cover their door with the blood of a sacrificed lamb. If you read that on its own, it does not make a lot of sense. But fast-forward to Jesus in the New Testament, and it was his blood that saved us from death.
If you are reading the Bible and having a hard time with the violence, keep reading. The book has violence, but the book is not about violence. The book is introducing you to God, his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit and making sure that you understand their roles and what they have done for us.
From the front of the story to the back,, you can always point back to Jesus because he has accomplished everything God asked of him. Jesus did not sin even once. He lived his life completely perfectly.
I am not saying that you can’t read the Bible and be confused or not understand some of the death or killing that you see. What I am saying is that you have to remember the greater context of the story and that the book is not about you.
4. We Serve a Just God
“The Rock, His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14).
One of the hardest things about violence in the Bible is that God decides what Justice is, not you. We all like to think that we are fair and that we would always do the just thing. The problem is that we want mercy when we are wrong, but we tend to want ultimate justice for others.
If all humans got what we deserve, we would get eternal death. That is what we deserve as sinners, but thankfully, by the grace of God, he sent his son Jesus to die and take our place so that we would not have to (Romans 5:16-17).
The same people who say that God is not just for the violence seen in the Bible are the same people who don’t think they deserve death for their sins. Why is this? It’s because most people think they are good people. There is being a good person with a few mistakes in the eyes of God. You have to be perfect and without even one blemish in your whole life. You must complete the law perfectly.
God is just, and his ways are greater than ours. How can one understand all of the ways of his master? You see such a small part of the picture here on earth. You are not God, so you don’t get to decide what true justice is.
5. Violence in The Bible Commanded by God is The Hardest Part
The biggest thing that people struggle with when it comes to the violence in the Bible is the violence that is commanded by God. In the Old Testament,, there are so many examples of this. From God killing firstborns because of Pharoah having a hard heart, to the Book of Judges, and in 1 Samuel when Saul does not listen and kill everyone as he was commanded to.
Why would God bring such harsh wrath on people and cause all of the violence in the Bible? He could do so as he pleases because people were hurting and pressing his people. God’s people were only God’s people because God chose the Israelites.
Deuteronomy 7:7-9 tells us, “The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.”
God had mercy on people because he is God, and he chooses whom he chooses. There is nothing else to it, and we don’t have to like it. Who are you to go to God and say that he has it wrong and his way is not the right way? The level of arrogance required to do that is on another level. Yet, people do this all the time and refuse to submit to the ways of God.
Romans 9: 14-18 “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.“