Leviticus 24 contains the story of a blasphemer being stoned to death.
Most would say that the young man insulted God and must be put to death because of it.
I can’t help but feel that assumption is wrong. It communicates that God is proud, that God’s pride can be hurt, and that God is vengeful because we hurt his pride…
I’m not buying it.
Imagine if a father doused his son in gasoline and set him on fire until he burned to death because his son called him a jerk, said he hated him, and broke all the father’s rules.
We would be appalled at such a parent! We would probably condemn the father for not showing more restraint against someone acting so immature!
So why do we as Christians write it off as ok when God is interpreted that way? Why is it ok for God to have such pride? Why is it ok for God to retaliate?
The answer Christians usually give is because “We can’t possibly understand how God’s ‘goodness’ fits into his ‘pride and revenge.'”
Let me flip that statement and ask…
What if we ACTUALLY can’t see how the ‘pride and revenge’ fit into God’s ‘goodness?’
In the English Standard Versions the translation of God’s words to Moses are, “Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.”
The God I know is the proud father of ALL of humanity; all religious and non-religious folks. God is equally joyous when a Christian tithes as when a Muslim offers Zakat, or when a Buddhist feeds an orphan and when an Atheist adopts a child. God is equally hurt when an Israeli or a Palestinian is killed. God is equally distraught over tsunamis in Japan and hurricanes in the U.S.
Jesus is the advocate for all of humanity and all of creation. The enemy is not other humans, but inhumanity. Thoughts, words, and states of being that remove our humanity from us include evils like guilt, pride, slander, gossip, poverty, and sickness.
The sin the blasphemer committed was not insulting God, but dehumanizing someone else.
Religion (or lack of a religion) is a deep piece of most people’s identity. By blaspheming the Israelites’ God, the young man was insulting the identity of the Israelites in an attempt to reduce their humanity. As Jesus would later teach in the Sermon on the Mount to insult someone is worthy of the fires of hell. Not because it’s “mean” or “cold-hearted,” but because it dehumanizes someone.
And so the same command was given to the Israelites, “Whoever curses [the blasphemer’s] God will bear his sin.”
Christians are not better than other religious or non-religious people. We are all children made equally. That is our confession whenever we refer to God as ‘Father.’
So let’s quit with the ‘Christian Exceptionalism‘ rhetoric, stone our own ‘blaspheming’ selves, and start living what we claim to believe; that ALL people are made in Christ’s image and are worthy of our love, compassion, and servitude.