From the old familiar chorus “How Great Thou Art” to the familiar old table grace, the people of God rejoice in God’s salvation: “God is great; God is good!” The refrain “God is great” is, however, sung in many other psalms to justify military conflict as God’s will.
Ever since the walls of Jericho “came a-tumblin’ down,” the spectre of divine violence has haunted believers and unbelievers alike. How can we reconcile the God who commanded Joshua to exterminate the enemies of God’s chosen people, with the God who, in the divine humanity of Jesus, teaches God’s chosen people to love our enemies? (Matthew 5:44)
Finding a satisfactory answer to the question of so-called redemptive violence begins at the empty tomb of the crucified Jesus. His cross reveals that God may be more willing to suffer the pain of human inhumanity than to inflict the pain of divine retribution. And Jesus’ resurrection affirms God’s invincible promise to redeem all people by the infinite power of God’s great love.
Loving God, your goodness gives us life and your compassion redeems us from all that brings death. Finish your new creation that all your children may share the great salvation promised in Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Saviour. Amen. — PL