Leviticus is not my favorite book of the Bible. I doubt that Leviticus is anyone's favorite book of the Bible. Rules about food. Rules about worship. Rules about skin diseases and fabrics and dishes. It also lists the consequences of breaking the rules. Consequences like isolation and physical punishment and death. I don't much like thinking of God as the author of seemingly arbitrary rules with the punishment for breaking the rules being death. Like the stories in Numbers where many, many people die for complaining and refusing to believe God, these disconcerting parts of the Bible bother me.
The same week I'm reading Leviticus, I am reading in chapter four of "Sifted". The author, Rick Lawrence, reports that the adjective most commonly used to describe Jesus is "nice". He compares this to Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers is nice--picture the opening scene, shoes in hand, cardigan being buttoned, soothing voice speaking. Nice. Lawrence then asks us to imagine walking through a bad neighborhood at night, alone, down a dark alley. Who do you want with you? Mr. Rogers? Equally, do you want Jesus? Do you imagine that He is strong enough, skilled enough, tough enough to help you?
Thanks to two snow days and a free Netflix trial, I began watching "The Walking Dead" last weekend. The world has been overrun by zombies, called "walkers" on the show. They are the undead, looking only for a meal, and we are it. There are many, many scenes of walkers chasing humans. When you are a human being chased by a walker, you want the strongest, most skilled, toughest zombie-hunter in the group (Daryl, okay, yes, in the woods alone with walkers, I want Daryl and his crossbow).
Crazy Levitical rules. Jesus as "Mr. Nice Guy." Darryl in the woods with walkers.
God is not nice. Jesus is not nice. Rick Lawrence goes so far as to use the word "brutal" about God. Satan and sin and evil are real in this world and real in my life, and more harmful and dangerous than any undead walkers. Jesus has authority and command. After Adam and Eve sin in the garden, the Lord says this to the serpent:
And I will put enmityIn the movie "The Passion of the Christ" we see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, prostrate on the ground, praying (Luke 22), appearing to be weak and helpless. However, even as the snake tries to prevail, Jesus rises and, with one decisive move, kills the snake (artistic interpretation of the Genesis passage).
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15, NIV)
Jesus came to crush the head of the serpent. He came to destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8, NIV).
He came to free us from sin. He will dig deeper into our lives and hearts and souls than we ever would in order to make us fully His. He is not "nice". Yes, He loves us tenderly and deeply and mercifully, and His lovingkindnesses never cease. He will also stop at nothing to make us His.