A friend of mine says that it would be impossible to truthfully make a movie about the Bible because the film would be so bloody and violent it would garner the most restrictive of ratings. If nothing else, the truth about scripture is far too grisly to tell our kids, and so…we sweeten it up a bit.
We teach them about Noah and the ark in Sunday school while handing them a page to color of Noah in his boat filled with smiling animals. We don’t like to dwell on the depth of depravity to which man had fallen before the flood was released on the earth.
“So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.” Genesis 6:13
We tell them about the brave boy David who struck the giant Goliath with stones from his sling but leave out the part when David severed Goliath’s head and took it back to camp as a trophy.
We certainly never tell them the story about Tamar, the princess who was raped by her half brother Amnon. Scripture tell us that after Tamar’s assault, she put ashes on her head and tore her princess’ robe in grief.
“She put her hand on her head and went away weeping aloud as she went.” “And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” 2 Samuel 13:19 & 20
I am not, for even a moment, advocating terrorizing children by sharing such stories of brutality.
But as adults…we should gaze into the dark heart of humanity as it is revealed in scripture. We should linger there because we live in a world that is violent, brutal, and suffering. There are millions of people who need to know that God cares when human beings are brutally butchering each other. He cares so much that when the violence of man filled the earth, He pressed the stop button with the flood and started again.
Lately, as I watch news reports concerning the unbridled violence and evil of ISIS, I have often prayed for God to push the stop button.
We need to know that in spite of the fact David was a “man of war”, a king who arranged the murder of a good man to cover up his own adultery, that the grace of God covered his many faults and used him mightily in spite of his weakness and sin.
And Tamar…Tamar who was deprived of earthly justice and lived out the rest of her life “a desolate woman”… God could have chosen to omit her story from the narrative of scripture. Her brother’s sin would have been unexposed. The fact that Tamar’s father, King David, grew angry when he learned of her assault but never acted to bring Amnon to justice would have remained hidden.
But that is not what happened. Out of all of the billion’s of lives lived on this planet, God reserved precious space in His word to tell the story of Tamar. He told us of the evil of her assault. He faithfully recounted her suffering and grief. He exposed Amnon’s sin and David’s injustice in the matter.
God wove her story into the stories of so many others of heartbreak, violence and sin to depict for us the tragedy of His creation, marred by the fall.
And then, He lay it all upon the cross of Christ.
It has often been asked whether or not the church has anything to say to a suffering world. The truth is, what can we, in an of ourselves, say? Who can respond to the heartbreak of human trafficking? What words could we possibly utter to a Yazidis mother to bring comfort when her child has been beheaded in front of her?
The mass graves of Bosnia and Rwanda demand our silence and our tears.
Any word given would be too little, too shallow…insulting.
But we, the church, do have the answer. We can point them to the God of Scripture who cares about injustice, violence and suffering. We as the body of Christ, must then live out this reality of God’s heart as we, by His power, pray, sacrifice, and work to set right these wrongs.
We must direct the suffering to the cross of Christ and the empty tomb, the moment in history when, in N.T. Wright’s words, “God launched the new creation in the middle of the old broken one.”
Finally, we can lead them to promise of the return of the Prince of Peace in Revelation 21:4.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:4-5
Amen, Lord Jesus. Please make it soon.