The Spirit of Christ

Some Christians get caught in the cracks between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They cannot distinguish between the operative principle of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Much of the Old Testament is the dispensation of the law i.e. the Ten Commandments. The reality of the Old Testament however is that the standards were impossible. And atonement for sins expired. Man was thus caught in a bind. The solution was not more laws and commandments. God knew that. The solution was amnesty through the dispensation of grace. That’s what the New Testament is all about. The spirit by which Elijah and the prophets operated cannot be imported into the New Testament. The regimes are different.

Shortly after the ordination of Elisha some street kids made fun of his bald head. Elisha cursed them in the name of the Lord and two she bears came out of the woods and tore 42 kids to shreds! (2Kings 2:24). Just a bit up the alley of time, before the time of Elisha was Prophet Elijah. King Ahaziah had fallen ill and had sought divination from Baal, an abominable god, as to his chances of recovery. God was angry about this and sent a message of discontent through Elijah to the king. Whereupon the king made an order for Elijah’s arrest. A captain and fifty soldiers were sent to execute the warrant of arrest. Elijah’s response was extreme: “If it’s true that I’m a ‘holy man,’ lightning strike you and your fifty men!” Out of the blue lightning struck and incinerated the captain and his fifty companions. By the time the standoff was over 102 soldiers were dead. Would have been more. Another set of 51 was only spared because the army captain preemptively begged for his life and that of his men. And so we see notable prophets in the Old Testament calling down fire and calling out bears to consume people. But fire and brimstone is NOT the spirit of the New Testament. The spirit of Elijah and Elisha is not a model for the New Testament saint. Jesus said so.

As the time of ascension of Jesus drew near, he made preparations for the ultimate journey to Jerusalem. He understandably had perturbation at the prospect but the Bible says he gathered his courage, steeled himself. As was his practice, he sent his hospitality team ahead to make advance bookings. The itinerary included passing through a Samaritan village. They needed hotel accommodation. But the people of Samaria had centuries old issues with the Jews – national determination issues. It was a North vs. South issue, not unlike the North-South divide in many nations today. The two sides hated each other. The Jews despised the Samaritans. The affection was well reciprocated.  They even had conflicting holy sites. The Samaritans did not accept Jerusalem as holy site. They had Gerizim. Upon learning Jesus was en route Jerusalem, the Samaritans were no longer disposed to him hospitality wise. Two prominent disciples of Jesus, brothers actually – James and John Zebedee (Jay Z) did not take kindly to this rebuff. “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?” they asked. Now you see why Jesus nicknamed them Sons of Thunder. These were very aggressive guys. Let’s see the text from the Amplified translation of the Bible – Luke 9:54-56 AMP:

“And when His disciples James and John observed this, they said, Lord do You wish us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked and severely censured them. He said, You do not know of what sort of spirit you are. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they journeyed on to another village.”

The spirit of the New Testament does not call down fire to consume people Jesus said. It is not a spirit that prays for the death of perceived enemies. Jesus said to love your enemies. The spirit of Christ does not relish in people going to hell. Jesus came to save humanity not incinerate them. That is not to say we must not state the reality of hell. We must speak the truth but speak the truth in love. If salvation is by grace how can a Christian claim moral superiority over others on the issue of salvation? How can a Christian taunt the unsaved and declare them headed for hell? That’s not the spirit of Christ.

The spirit of Christ is not judgmental. And it’s not condemnatory. Jesus did not come to condemn the world.  Neither is the spirit retaliatory. Jesus says to turn the other cheek. Vengeance is God’s prerogative.  To show the contrast between the Old and New Testaments Jesus often juxtaposed them. Listen to our Lord: “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy’, I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does; He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that” Matthew 5:43-47. This is the summary: “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing.

Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:35-38 MSG)

© Leke Alder |