"Why does God hold a grudge?" She asked after the class read a portion of Exodus 34.
"What do you mean?" Asked another in the class.
She replied, "We just read in Exodus 34, ‘the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’"
The class was silent. Everyone wondering how it could be that Jesus commands us to forgive seventy time seven but God is allowed to hold a grudge for a few generations.
"I guess that is the difference between God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament. There is more grudge holding by God before Jesus." One of the voices stated with confidence while overlooking the supersessionism that often clouds our Christian responses.
We often forget that the Bible is a product of the human experience and a response to evolving Hanuka consciousness. The Bible is a text in tension with itself because human consciousness is less like a light switch and more like a dimmer switch.
I would submit that God is not holding a grudge but in fact this is a new understanding of God that is very good news to the people of the time.
In the time of Moses, time was thought to be a circle. What happened in this life happened before and will happen again. History repeats itself and so if you messed up, then is was in part because your parents messed up, and your children will mess up because of your mistake. Therefore mistakes live forever.
It is in this world that understanding of God shifts and the consequences of a mistake are limited to a few generations. Perhaps not the most forgiving news to our ears, in the days of this original insight, this was liberating. There was end in sight for your mistakes and you were not haunted forever by your family's past. Understanding time shifts from a "circle" that repeats to a "line" that moves forward and progresses.
As human consciousness has continued to move forward and our understanding of God has grown, it seems crazy today that God would hold a grudge for a few generations. But as dramatic as it is for us to move from holding a grudge for a few generations to forgiving seventy times seven, so too is it dramatic for us to move from mistakes haunting us forever to only a few generations.
If you cannot forgive seventy times seven, then can you at least put a time limit your grudge or will you hold it forever?