R-Rated: Preaching Holy War
3 ways to help our readers understand these R-Rated passages.
Is God a genocidal maniac? Many people fear the holy war passages of the Old Testament make him out to be. "Show no mercy." "Utterly destroy them." "Do not leave alive anything that breathes." Those are some pretty drastic marching orders. At first glance, God can look like an ancient military commander who's lost his marbles in war, suddenly unleashing rapid machine-gun fire on a conquered village of unarmed civilians.
Do these passages depict genocide? Are Jesus' grandparents carrying out vicious massacres at his Father's command? How do we reconcile these tough passages with the goodness of God and help our people understand them well? How do we preach on holy war? Here are a few angles I've found helpful.
The cities Israel takes out are military strongholds, not civilian population centers. Say the word city today and most of us think of metropolitan centers flooded with civilians: houses, restaurants, businesses, ...