“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able”.
For Christians the cross of Jesus Christ is the pivotal point of all history – no, of all time. The cross that Jesus asks us to bear with Him is usually that of having to love and forgive not only those who despise us but also those who despise Jesus. He loves them and we must also as well.
Contrary to what I used to believe, Jesus’ Gospel of love, compassion and forgiveness is the true ‘meat’ of the Gospel. This is what we have the hardest time digesting, the idea that no matter how repugnant the act or the actor, God allows us no option but to love that person as He would.
There is a fair amount of arguing going on over whether this image of God, as represented by Jesus in the Gospels, is the entire picture. Even though Jesus is quite adamant that He is a perfect representation of God the Father, many believers say that other parts of the Bible show a different side to His nature. Not everything in ‘red letters’ is about love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
As far as ‘red letters’ go (something we have had only since 1900), there is only one book other than the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles which uses them. Could that be where most of the problem lies? It would depend upon if you believe that Jesus actually uttered those particular words or not. Whoever John was, he admits that his revelation was not ‘real’, that it was probably a dream or an hallucination much like that of Daniel’s. He refers back to Daniel quite a bit, and both Daniel and Revelation use imagery first found in the Hebrew apocrypha, such as the book of Enoch. Little of what John tells us has anything relationally to do with the Gospels. As opposed to the Gospel of love and forgiveness that Jesus shared, John’s revelation is one of vengeance and wrath, encouraging many of the church’s historical excesses as well as (I would presume) much of modern fundamentalist theology
In fact, there is no mention of the cross of Jesus in the Book of Revelation. Nowhere in this book can we see God’s love and compassion displayed as we see it portrayed on Golgotha. For years there has been controversy within the church over whether or not this book should even be included in the canon, with Martin Luther saying that he could “in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.”
The idea that the righteous will be avenged by God through bloody and violent campaigns, that there is some hyper-powerful created being who, in opposing God, is causing the world’s suffering, that those who have hurt us will someday get what’s coming to them – this is all ‘milk’. It goes down easy because it is how the world ‘works’. It’s what we are used to, it’s how Hollywood movies are staged and resolved and it puts us in the enviable position of watching the losers suffer the way we think they should. Even though John harangues various churches for becoming too comfortable with the prevailing cultures of the day, his revelation actually complements those cultures and does not run counter to them. Jesus’ Good News was the counter culture message of His time as well as all others. (It is ironic that ‘milk’ and ‘meat’ are the words used in the KJV as both these foods must be kept seperate according to Hebrew custom).
No matter how much stock we may or may not put into the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture it must always be looked at through the lens of the Gospel. There is nothing ‘evangelical’ about the book of Revelation. Actions speak louder than words and what Jesus did with his life drowns out any arguments over what he said, red letters or not. With practice, the tough, chewy, hard-to-swallow ‘meat’ of the Gospel eventually may become the easy flowing ‘milk’ of human kindness