To truly understand the story of the church, I need to back up a few thousand years before its inception in the book of Acts. So much of the misconceptions many have about Christianity originate from a misunderstanding about how the books of the Bible work cumulatively — it is a whole story from Genesis to Revelation.
A number of weeks ago I was talking with a good friend of mine, Dr. Chad Carmichael. We entered into a discussion about the trajectories of scripture, how we so often misunderstand what is taking place because we unintentionally miss the meta-narrative of scripture. Let me give an example Dr. Carmichael and I discussed that originated with a man named Dennis Prager. Tucked away in Deuteronomy 21, we see a command to stone rebellious children. Though this may reduce talking back in the home, we would all agree that punishment seems incredibly severe, especially since the over-arching heart of scripture, for instance in the New Testament with parables like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), doesn’t seem to line up with this. If all you do is look at that specific text, you will miss the divine process that is happening. In that day and age there is much evidence that parents had almost no boundaries on how they disciplined their children. When God mandated in Old Testament law some form of justice by taking the child to the elders of the city for judgment, it was radical for that day. It was actually merciful considering that in the historical context of this time parents could do whatever they wanted to their children with no accountability.
God, like a strategic chess player, begins to set a trajectory of how all people have value. Even children.
God sets in motion a movement that will ultimately come to the place where Christ looks at children and tells his followers that the kingdom of God is for “such as these.” (Luke 19:13-15) The story of redemption is one that began thousands of years ago and culminated on the cross, and still today those truths propel the ethics with which we are to continue. One of the greatest tragedies in church history is when leaders pick signpost commands in the Bible and ignore the directional intention of them. Dr. Timothy Keller writes in his observations of the theologian John Calvin, “God so identifies with the poor that their cries express divine pain. The Bible teaches us that our treatment of them equals our treatment of God.” Our method as Christians should be truth propelled by the vehicle of grace and mercy. The goal is the winning of a heart through love, not a cruel control of or indifference towards those who have less of a voice.