When God Kills People?

Its been said that ‘where you stand determines what you see’, which is why theology in a western context often looks very different to perspectives from other more impoverished or persecuted parts of the world.

Equally the lens you read the Bible through determines what you see and how you understand what you see. I recently ordered Greg Boyd’s new book, Crucifixion of the Warrior God, a 1492 page tome looking at how we reconcile the violence in the OT with the non-violent Jesus – assuming that we hold a strong view of biblical inspiration and don’t just toss out the hard bits.

Boyd’s lens seems to be the ‘God who is revealed in the crucified Christ’ and after watching this youtube clip I get a sense of what he means by that. Essentially he is saying that if we now have this revelation – this information on who God is – whereas those before Jesus time didn’t then we have a lens for looking back on that historical information and interpreting it more intelligently. He suggests the violence attributed to God by the biblical writers is not actually God at work, but may be God allowing others to act in that way. (Watch the clip for fuller explanation).

I’m curious to see how he develops this thinking – and also why he stops at the ‘crucified Christ’ rather than ‘ the crucified and resurrected Christ’.

In recent years my own primary lens for approaching the difficult passages of scripture has been via the premise that ‘God is good’. Its the foundation stone of all of my theological thinking. If God is good then I have to be able to understand various events in light of that truth – or I can live with them as mystery knowing that God is good. (And if God isn’t good then we’re in some pretty deep poo…)

Lately I’ve pondered some difficult questions that don’t have any easy answers and without a strong primary lens I imagine a thinking person’s faith could unravel. I have just come back from my brother in law’s funeral, where a good, faithful man suffered for 9 years with motor neurone disease and then eventually died. You have to ask questions of God’s character in those situations. People were praying for his healing to the end. He didn’t ‘curse God’ and walk away, but when all was said and done he suffered and died. So maybe God is a heartless jerk?…

Or maybe God doesn’t see, doesn’t care, doesn’t care enough?… These are all very fair questions. Maybe God is ‘working all things together for good’?… Well… yeah… but really? He couldn’t have found a better plan? Is he God or not?

If God isn’t good then Graham’s death was a senseless waste of life and a tragic loss for his family, but if God is good then there must be another way of looking at that situation – not to minimise the pain, or trivialise it, but to ask ‘what is going on that we can’t see?’ The answer may be that ‘we just can’t see it’ and we have to live with that.










At the funeral one of the images shared in a eulogy was Graham’s own take on life as a bit like a ‘cross-stitch’ ie. what looks like a complete mess of fabric and knots from one side is actually a coherent and beautiful picture from another side. With limited perspective we can only see part of the picture.

I can sit pretty well with mystery, but I have always found the OT slaughter passages a bit of struggle because even the best answers have left me somewhat ‘meh’. So here’s hoping Boyd has a take that allows me to put that one to bed and in the process gives a lens for viewing the dark times of life.


The Problem is Not With Reality










Bunnings was shut today.

That’s a rare event, almost on a par with a visit from Haley’s comet.

But then it is Good Friday – possibly the only day on the Christian calendar to still command some degree of reverence (at least in hardware)…

In my own mind this day feels like the ‘big one’, more a day of mourning and reflection than Easter Sunday which is a celebration, or Christmas where the vibe is similar.

So when I got texts and emails from people wanting retic work done today I found myself a little irate.

Don’t they know what day it is?!

And that was the rub. Yes they do – it’s Friday and it’s a public holiday. They aren’t at work and have had time to go into the garden to notice that their sprinklers aren’t working. So they decided to get in touch and ask for help.

It’s only ‘Good Friday’ to those of us who are in the know – to those of us who buy the whole Jesus story. To everyone else it’s a day for fishing, gardening or taking off to Busso.

I found myself a little miffed at the insensitivity of people daring to ask about reticulation on this of all days.

And then as I stopped to ponder I simply had to realise that I was seeing the world very differently to them.

Why should I expect ordinary, secular Aussies to view Easter as a significant Christian event?

That’s absurd.

But it was a reminder of how easy it is to live within a worldview that is no longer seen as mainstream. And my response was equally concerning. Disappointment with a secular culture because it doesn’t observe Christian faith traditions is like getting upset with the cricket club for not kicking enough goals.

The times are still changing and as missionaries to this culture we have to be able to look back at ourselves and consider what we do and how we perceive the world because sometimes reality has shifted and we haven’t noticed.

A Different Kind of King

Last week I watched the story of Private Desmond Doss, a soldier in the second world war whose story is told in the movie Hacksaw Ridge.

Doss grew up as a Christian and a devout pacificist – he was a conscientious objector to war. But he chose to sign up and do his bit as a medic. He wanted to serve his country, do his part and help the cause.

He just didn’t want to kill anyone in the process.

He confused his fellow soldiers because he didn’t play by the rules. He refused to pick up a weapon or to get involved in anything that would hurt another person.

Doss was taunted and abused by his fellow soldiers who considered him a coward. They saw someone who lacked courage and who just didn’t get it. So they beat him up and tried to get rid of him.

They tried to make army life so unbearable that he would quit and go home.

The truth was, he didn’t lack courage at all – he was more than prepared to put his body on the line – in fact he had the courage of 10 men. He roamed the battle field without a gun of any kind, running out to attend to those who had been hurt and to pick up injured soldiers and literally carry them on his back to safety where they could be cared for.

Often those injured soldiers were the same ones who had abused him and accused him of weakness. His presence to save them – at risk of his own life – must have been confusing to say the least.

Doss was a man of great courage and conviction and he was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the congressional medal of honour for bravery.

He saw the world different to those around him and he was misunderstood and abused because of it.

He was a soldier – but a different kind of soldier.

That was the battle of Okinawa in 1945.

Today we remember the battle of Golgotha in C 33 AD where two other kingdoms collided. And we see another man who saw the world differently and who suffered for it.

He was a king – but a different kind of king. He was misunderstood, abused and maligned for his un-kingly ways. And yet that was the very point.

He came as a different kind of king to establish a different kind of kingdom – to lead people into a new way of living – but in doing so he confused his followers who were counting on him to win a military victory and establish a kingdom of power and might.

The only way people could see victory was by force and might, but Jesus wasn’t going to win anything by that means.

If you live by the sword you die by the sword.

But if you die by the cross then you can call people to live by the cross. You can call people to a way of life that is not about being the boss, but rather is about being a servant.

In Mark 10 Jesus was speaking with his disciples about this new kingdom he was going to establish and an argument broke out about who was going to be 2IC – who’s going to get the prestige jobs in the new administration!

And Jesus just says ‘ no you guys don’t get it do you?’

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

He came to serve – and to give his life. In fact when Peter objected to having his feet washed by Jesus replied, ‘If i don’t wash your feet then you have nothing to do with me’

He was a different kind of king

Instead of smashing his way to the top Jesus came and served and people didn’t get it. We still don’t. On this planet the man with the biggest guns still rules and gets his way

They misunderstood him at one level and understood him perfectly on another – which is why he was executed. Instead of playing the game, working the system and colluding with those in power he critiqued them. He saw thru their self centredness and ego and he saw the mess that that approach had made of God’s creation.

So they plotted to get rid of him

In fact they feared him. His ways and ideas and his life was at odds with theirs and eventually it came to a head.

Someone had to win. Someone always has to win.

So what does a ‘win’ look like when you don’t want to play the game like those who are abusing you?

What does it mean to stay true?

For Jesus it meant death. It meant allowing himself to be killed by those who didn’t get him and who felt threatened by him. He gave his life literally.

For him it meant not fighting back. Not playing the same game, but drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘from now on new rules apply’.

Jesus willing ness to die set the tone for the kingdom he came to establish so today we reflect on a different kind of king and the darkest day in history when we rejected his rule and killed him.


We come to Easter Friday now with the knowledge of imminent resurrection, but that first Easter there was no recognition of that possibility – just despair and utter grief that it had all come to nothing. The plan had failed and Jesus was another disappointment.

I guess it all depends on how you see the world…