Many skeptics of Christianity disdainfully raise a valid question about the many injustices and atrocities committed by the Church and its people in the name of God over the centuries. Nobody can deny the embarrassing and even shameful chapters in the history of Christendom.
When reading the rape of Dinah, one is provided with material to better understand how to respond to this valid objection. In this narrative Shechem, a prince from a neighboring land, rapes Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. After this egregious act, Shechem’s father, Hamor, has the gall to approach Jacob, asking for Dinah’s hand in marriage. Hamor is willing to hand over a modest fortune and make innumerable compromises to secure the hand of this woman.
Now at this point, one may expect the story to involve justified, heroic vengeance exacted by Dinah’s brothers. There is no such chapter. Jacob’s sons – the grandchildren of Abraham, the patriarch of God’s people – deceive Hamor. They override their father. They bring innocent people into the matter. They murder Hamor, Shechem, and all the males of the city in cold blood. They rob the city of its resources, leaving the women and children helpless. Finally, they endanger their father and damage his good reputation.
These are the actions of God’s people.
God as the ultimate editor of His Word had discretion over what was selected to be in the Bible. There were thousands of stories that He could have included throughout the history of Israel, and He includes a story of rape and of a reciprocal massacre by the people who are supposed to be the holiest of the holy and the best of the best.
God pulls no punches with regard to the human condition. It is dark. All people inherit a sin nature from Adam and Eve. Humanity, while precious and beautiful as creatures made in the image of God, is described as “hostile to God,” “wicked,” and “deceitful.”
Now this sounds like a major Debbie Downer post, but plenty of good news is about to come. First, even at our worst, Christ still died for our sins on the Cross. Through Christ, God still revives, redeems, and accepts lost sinners.
Secondly, accepting our sin takes us off the never-ending treadmill of striving to be perfect. Let’s be honest, we all want to be viewed as the perfect husband or perfect accountant or perfect tee-ball coach or perfect dad. But behind the walls of our flesh runs a film of reality that depicts a life far short of perfection. Looking at the characters in this story and saying, “Ya know, I’m made of the same fabric and I’ve had thoughts and impulses and maybe even actions that prove that very little separates me from them,” is a freeing thing. No more pretenses. No more pretending. No more defensiveness. Not perfect. Fallen far short of the standard.
Acceptance of reality is liberating. But it is only liberating because Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God on the Cross, so we can boldly acknowledge the darkest part of our life and know that God accepts us perfectly.
Christianity was not and never will be built on the righteous deeds of admirable, religious folks. It is only based on merits of One Person, Jesus Christ, one sacrifice on the Cross, and one Resurrection in time and space.