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If It Was Good Enough For Jesus …

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the Southeastern United States quite a bit. This area of the country has always been known for doing things a little differently than everybody else, and I couldn’t help but notice this to be true in the area of religion as well. Sure, here in the South we do have snake handlers and our fair share of televangelists, but these are fairly well known types, one of whom usually takes up some time on a tabloid news show once a year.

However, a kind of church that has interested me most recently is the “New Testament” church. These kinds of churches (which can be found in several different denominations) mainly focus their beliefs on what the New Testament teaches, even to the point of structuring their congregations in the same manner as the very first Christians. For many of these churches, if it’s not found in the New Testament, it must not be important. I can certainly understand where much of this belief comes from, being that the basis for Christianity is founded in the belief in the New Testament Christ who died and rose, but at the same time I have to ask myself, “What ever happened to the Old Testament?”

Of course for a publication like RELEVANT, there is, understandably, a move away from the things that are old. It seems like part of the definition of being relevant would to be “not old,” and in terms of Christianity, there are always churches and groups that are trying to be “not old.” Being old simply means you’ve fallen behind, and good luck trying to catch up. I would bet that most of the teaching that goes on in the local church is from the New Testament. I would bet that of the verses you can quote from memory, most are from the New Testament. Where do most people flip to when they open their Bibles? Without detailed analysis, I can’t be 100 percent sure, but I would guess it would mostly be the New Testament.

What did ever happen to the Old Testament? For many of us, it seems like we were taught the big stories of the Old Testament in elementary Sunday school and then went on to big church where everybody really reads out of the letters of Paul. Those Proverbs are just so easy to pass over. What are they really talking about anyway? And true, it is a little hard to follow who exactly begot whom in Chronicles. However, many Christians just bypass the Old Testament like it was yesterday’s news, an old edition that got a facelift around 33 A.D. In a society of instant information, it almost seems like we have to have the newest of the new, even when it comes to the Bible.

To be honest, I was quite confounded by this idea of the “New Testament” church and by our society that seems to have almost forgotten about the Old Testament. It finally came to a head for me when I overheard an argument between two people about whether Jesus was a Christian or not. Jesus—not a Christian?! And yet, it made perfect sense. Jesus didn’t have the New Testament. Jesus didn’t have Paul’s theology and John’s prophecy. Jesus had the Old Testament, the Law, and that was it. Wait a minute, that must mean that Jesus was Jewish! Undoubtedly this might come as quite a shock to many “New Testament” churches. So does this mean that every synagogue around the world is hopelessly outdated, every Jew a walking relic? And if so, is Jesus outdated today with them?

Going to a weekly service at the local synagogue would surely be an eye opener for many of us Christians. Here is a group of people that traces their ancestry back to one of the oldest races of the world. Every week, they read out of the oldest of the old in the Old Testament. Their traditions and teachings have been born out of not hundreds, but thousands of years of struggles and searches for God. And yet, even with all of the outdated religiosity, there is the undeniable presence of God, as fresh and new as it must have been for Abraham and Sarah. If you can boil the New Testament down to redemption on the cross, the Old Testament can be boiled down to one simple thing: a promise. It was a promise made to many people before us. It’s a promise of which we as Christians are direct descendants.

And so I remind myself, as I flip my Bible open, to not speed past the minor prophets and Judges, because buried in those sometimes lengthy, hard to understand passages are the roots of my faith in Christ. It almost seems an injustice to call the Old Testament old when a faith that has been alive for thousands of years remains as new and powerful as the day God created it. The next time you’re in your Bible, try a new approach—flip backwards. You might be surprised at what you find.

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