The most defining difference between the Old and New Testament is that Jesus refines our understanding of the character of God. God is not the one who comes to steal, kill, or destroy, that’s the enemy; God comes to bring life (John 10:10). God does not accuse and condemn, that’s the enemy; God comes to heal and save (John 3:17). God does not demand the stoning of sinners, that’s the enemy; God enables them to live free of sin (John 8:11). God does not command the wholesale slaughter of enemies including their wives, children, and pets; he commands to love and forgive them, for in so doing we are like our Father. And if we don’t, Jesus says, we are no better than the pagans (Luke 6:27-36). God dies for his enemies and doesn’t count their sin against them and by doing so, reconciles them (2 Cor. 5:19).
|Jesus Washing Peter's Feet (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)|
God is not a God of retributive justice, but a God of restorative justice (Matt. 12:15-21). God freely forgives (Luke 5:20, 7:48; Matt. 9:5) and desires mercy instead of demanding sacrifice (Matt. 9:13, 12:7), and he offers himself as a sacrifice to prove it. God does not demand blood to make peace with him, he gives his own blood to make peace with us. God is not the destroyer, nor does he hold the power of death over us, that is the enemy; God comes to destroy death, and to destroy the destroyer who holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14).
God does not send evil spirits to torment and deceive people (1 Samuel 16:14, 1 Kings 22:22), rather God casts evil spirits out (Matt., Mark, Luke, and John). God does not render the lepers and the sick as unclean and command for them to be abandoned to die outside the camp (Num. 5:2), but embraces the lepers unto healing (Matt., Mark, Luke, John). God does not want us to live in fear, but reveals a perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). God is not wrathfully destructive towards us, but is in hot pursuit of us to bring us out of our own self-destructive waywardness and back into his fold (Luke 15:1-7). God is not an angry abusive father prowling the city streets looking for his rebellious son to beat him senseless in his white-hot wrath, but a kind Father watching the road longing for one sign of his sons return so that he can run to him and embrace him and bring him back to the safety of his home (Luke 15:11-32). I might as well share that I am in tears right now as I write this. The Father loves us.
God’s intent is to free the oppressed, bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, heal the sick, and set the captive free (Luke 4:18). God is Abba, the Father of Lights, from whom all good things come, and there is no shadow of turning from this (James 1:17). God is light, and does not have a dark side (1 John 1:5). God comes to heal us of our sin disease (Matt. 9:12, Mark 2:17), and raise us up to the dignity of sons and daughters (1 John 3:1). God cries out our forgiveness while we murder him (Luke 23:34). God is Christlike, and in him there is no un-Chrislikeness at all. This and this alone can change our hearts of stone back into beating, throbbing hearts of love that manifest the image of the divine.
The writer of Hebrews said that all before Christ was a mere shadow of the reality (Hebrews 10:1). It's kind of hard to decipher the true form of something by looking at its shadow. You can get some stuff wrong. John makes the audacious claim that "No one has ever seen God", even though Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekial had all claimed to have seen God. But regardless of the dreams, visions, revelations, epiphanies, theophanies of these men in scripture that claimed to have seen God, John says that no one has ever seen God until they've seen Jesus. Jesus says, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." Jesus appeared and was the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God’s being, the radiance of the Father’s glory, the Word made flesh, the fullness of God in bodily form.
So, if what is written by those who only saw a vague shadow contradicts the actual flesh and bones incarnation of God, then go with the latter. This is demonstrated in certain strands of the shadowy Old Testament. Whereas it was common for people in the Old Testament to slay enemies and say that God commanded them to do it, Jesus tells us that we are no better than the pagans if we do that, and reveals that if we love our enemies, then we are like our Father. When the Pharisees wanted to carry out what was written in their law of Moses to stone an adulteress, Jesus called them of their father the devil who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Interesting. When his disciples wanted to follow in Elijah's footsteps and call down fire on Christ-rejectors, Jesus rebuked them and said, "You know not what spirit you are of." (John 9:55) Interesting. When Peter rebukes Jesus concerning going to the cross because Peter believes the Messiah will establish his kingdom through violent subjugation, Jesus says, "Get behind me satan!" (Matt. 16:23) Interesting.
Jesus expressly names all which steals, kills, or destroys as not of his Abba, but only that which comes to give life. It is never okay to quote the Old Testament to endorse something that Jesus clearly forbids.