In attempting to show that violent acts, wars, and unjust persecutions are not part of God’s plan, unbelievers often point to the Old Testament and show the diametrically opposed evidence of God’s teachings of peace. But it without understanding, that the claim of His two-facedness seems to be self-evident and proved.
To understand better what is going on, and to show that God Himself does not oppose upon His own Truths, one must break down the purpose and function of these books.
For anyone who has read J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, “Lord Of The Rings”, one is immediately immersed in a story very like humanity. The setting is a different world. The creatures are not human in form or being. Yet Tolkien skillfully mastered capturing the traits that are uniquely human.
His works were based on his Catholic Faith. And he clearly expounds on such when interviewed.
But his use of fantasy was the canvas he used to eloquently describe the human heart. Both its good and evil; selfishness and generosity; faith in self and faith in the divine. The battle of good against evil is not unlike our own. And the personalities are not much different than those around us.
So, too, when one looks at the Old Testament, one sees mankind in its infancy. As a child, violence was often the method used to demand victory over some evil that was trying to come against it. Picture a toddle who throws temper tantrums or blocks to force their opinion or rebuke the wrong-doer.
But as the Old Testament grew, one can see in the books of wise advices (Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Song of Solomon, and such like) as well as historical books (such as Esther, Ruth, and Maccabees) how man began to change his methods. As he grew up in spiritual stature, his methods for combating evil became less and less physical and became increasingly spiritual.
By the time Jesus came on the scene, man was grown enough spiritually to embrace something totally new. The next level of his growth was to take place on a purely spiritual level.
No longer did he need to combat with the tools of his hands. Instead, he warred against evil on his knees.
Many in the world today cynically mock the Christian concept of warring through prayer. But through prayer and fasting, man has witnessed miracles that could not be explained by modern day science. Not without massive assumptions or skewing the methods and outcome through the eyes of one who cannot see beyond their human eyes.
The battle of Lapanto is a good modern day example of situations that can turn on a dime, without a canon shot fired to defeat the unbeatable enemy.
The miracles of demons being cast out of human victims; healings from the mere touch of the hem of Jesus’ robe; multiplication of loaves and fishes. All are documented consistently in the New Testament as well as through the evidence of exorcists today.
And none came from human efforts alone…
Even today we witness the power of prayer. Today’s “science” tries to explain it all away saying that it is just the power of the mind.
But many more instances do not justify this reasoning. There are multitudes of those who failed to achieve earthly successes for healing by the same, even though their faith and mindset is the same.
Through the power of prayer, empires tumbled. Rome fell. Cambodian bloodshed stopped. Converts by the thousands came into the Church from the story and image on the tilma of a man in Guadalupe, Mexico. Healings occur to this day from the miraculous waters of Lourdes. Forewarnings of terrible destructions and amazing victories come from the prayers and dialog of people who spend their time communing with the Living God.
And those who have undergone horrific agony and persecutions have remained quiet and balanced interiorly in spite of the suffering. Others have survived massive tortures by remaining faithful to God in prayer and interior silence.
There is no explanation as to why any of these things occur, or to whom they are chosen. But they do.
And there is no explanation which can satisfy the reasoning behind why some survive without bitterness, and others seek revenge when released. It is more than a person’s upbringing. And it is more than their ability to trick the mind into seeking solace elsewhere.
There is a Grace that upholds them which goes beyond understanding.
As one grows older, the understanding of the world around us changes. We will either grow up, or remain in our infancy.
Those who grow are ones who have learned patience, kindness, moral values, and boundaries.
The ones who refuse remain like toddlers, stubbornly determined that they can fend for themselves. They believe that the only way to overcome their enemies is through an act of their own hands. Often, it leads to worse atrocities than the original offense. Very few times will they succeed in their revenge and attain a peace.
Human actions and reasons alone will never fully succeed without defective consequences.
Looking back into the Old testament, we see a growth in God’s people. In the New, he is able to rise above the body and enter into the spiritual world completely. Suffering persecutions and tortures becomes a conjoining of the Passion of Christ for the sake of the world. Unlike the Old Testament, man is capable of bringing about change without the use of violence or self-reliance. His concern no longer is for his own sake, but for the sake of the whole world. Especially his brothers and sisters in Christ.
From the beginning, man rebelled against God. He chose human curiosity over obedience and lost perfection. His rebellious nature infects all of humanity. His continual refusal to obey is costing billions of lives throughout history.
But God’s people were different…
While there were wars instigated by the Jews in the Old Testament to take over lands promised by God, much of these stories can be seen from an ontological sense. Man, in his infancy, was shown the methods and art of warfare against his enemies. Like a child who is taught to build a house out of Lincoln Logs using specific methods for which they were designed, man had to be shown what warfare looked like on a physical sense. His victory was achieved only insofar as he was faithful to God.
When he grew up to the age of understanding, that art of warfare reached a spiritual level. While many in the Jewish nations remained steadfast in their hope of a physical reality, Jesus showed them that the world they belonged to was not here. That victory took on a supernatural sphere.
Some understood. Most did not. The ones who refused were the ones who missed their Messiah – He Who stood in their midst.
His teachings were another plateau to their growth. And it was hard to embrace. Many left – especially when He taught about the Eucharist.
But to those who understood, and to those who understand today, this world is a classroom in which we are being taught how to grow and pass the Gates to Heaven. It is the bridge, through the actions of God, that closed the gap between Heaven and Earth.
And Jesus was the One Who taught the way to get there.
The way to Heaven is achieved by relinquishing this life and all it decries are a necessity for comfort here on earth.
But materialism does not pull a man through the pearly gates. Nor do his own efforts that based solely on his self reliance.
The only way to grasp the understanding of the Old and New Testaments is through the eyes of Christ.
And the only way to do that is to see things through spiritual lenses, not physiological ones.
Understanding of this concept cannot take place through the eyes of science. It can only come through the eyes of Faith. And the desire for Truth.
And that exists inside the teachings of Christ found both in the New Testament and the traditions of the Church.
There were more teachings during Jesus’ 40 days on earth after His resurrection. He was shown to be teaching His disciples even as He was being carried up into Heaven.
Even the Apostle declared that if everything Jesus did on earth were written down, there would be not enough books to hold them all. (John 21:25) Much of those teachings, before the New Testament was compiled, was handed down through oral traditions. The very ones that are still retained through the Catholic Church for over two thousand years.
Even the very order and compilation of the New Testament books was from careful research. A series of studies comparing the teachings of Christ with the books determined the validity of those writings, and included them as part of the Canon.
Those efforts were completed through the Church councils and translations of Saint Jerome, not random acts of kindness.
When we take into consideration any command of God to His people in the New Testament and beyond, it must not be seen as antithetical to His teachings of the past. The teachings of an infant learning to feed himself are not applicable to an adult. A comparison between the two concepts can never be considered the same.
So, too, should we not read into the teachings of the Old Testament as a means of justification toward acts of violence. As man has grown in spiritual stature, so, too, have his methods of warfare changed.
No longer is he taught to see the faults of others and take offense, but to rise above them and take it all to God. Even to the point of losing his own life for the sake of another, not enacting violence.
The end no longer justifies the means.
Jesus opened the door to Heaven through His sacrifice on the cross. He suffered as the ultimate payment for all the violence we have done throughout our existence. That violence against God and against all who were created in His image and likeness no longer is allowed. Jesus took all of it upon Himself and taught us that what happened in the past was a stepping stone into our existence today.
Today, we are lifted back up to the rightful place in the spiritual realm as we once were in Eden. And there it is that we should fight the good fight, remaining faithful to God and complete in our trust in Him. Right reason over passion. Spiritual efforts above physical self-reliance.
Jesus taught that “an eye for an eye” is not right. We have been now raised up to new heights. Believers are considered brothers and sisters of Christ. Sons and daughters of God. Together, we will reach our eternal destiny. And our heavenly home is all that matters.
Though our enemies are many and growing daily, let us remember that interpretation of our beliefs by those in the world miss completely the lessons we are learning to embrace.
We are older now than our forefathers. And we have the examples of the Saints to light the way to peace – interiorly and exteriorly. It comes without physical violence to any but our own flesh.
We are taught to overcome the world, not fight for it. This is not our ultimate home.
Our journey today leads us to the heights of Heaven itself. Those in the world can never understand that. It is where our native country is, living with God Himself for all eternity.
And by our lives here on earth, we can bring down Heaven on earth by living in the Light of His Glory. By connecting to Him in the present. Through prayer. Through sacrifice. And through our lives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled…
Do not let the world trouble your faith when they try to explain it away through their god of science. Our God surpasses all knowledge of man. And, in the end, what man tries to explain away God through his inferior reason, his reasoning will be proven to be false. It will show just how little he is when God reveals Himself to us through us.
It has happened every time.
God lives within us. The Holy Spirit has been unleashed upon the world through the Resurrection. And it is through us, through His power, that we can war and win on a level unknown to modern man.
Moreover, we will win. Even though it may appear to the world that we are not, and though it appears that evil has taken hold in every way to the ruin of all of humanity, we will win. Our bodies may die, but our victory isn’t of this earth.
That is the lesson we need to learn in order to understand the meaning of the Bible. All of it.
It is God’s teacher’s manual for all of us. But we must be willing to let the Teacher Who wrote it give us the understanding of it. Not man. For man can only see finitely. And even in his limited understanding, cannot even grasp the simple lesson taught when he relies on himself alone.
We all grow up. And we change how we approach life as we gain experience and maturity.
But only if are willing to embrace the lessons. And learn from the One Who gave them to us.