A Biblical Look at Blasphemy

I’ve recently saw this video on my Facebook newsfeed, and I thought I share a few thoughts and insights.

Pakistan has a blasphemy law where if someone insults the Prophet Muhammad, then that person will be sentenced to death.

The Bible also has its own blasphemy law: “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:13-16)

People might say that they see no difference between the two laws. In a sense they are right in terms of how the law is defined, but they are wrong in terms of how the law is applied.

Some of the things to consider when looking at the application of the law:
-accusation
-determining guilt
-deciding punishment
-enforcement of sentence
-who enforces the penalty

Both Islam and Christianity are similar in their accusation, determination of guilt, and type of punishment sentenced, but they differ in the aspects of enforcement of sentence and who enforces the penalty.

At one time, both Islam and Judaism expected the religious community to enforce the death penalty on blasphemers.

However when Jesus of Nazareth came into human history, He changed everything. When a person commits blasphemy, that individual deserves the death sentence, but what Jesus did was unique.

The concept of substitutionary atonement is powerful. Jesus let himself be treated as if He was the one who committed blasphemy instead of the one who actually committed the crime so the guilty person could go free.

Indeed, the Pharisees believed that Jesus was committing blasphemy when He assumed the prerogatives of Godhood by saying things like “I and the Father are one”

“At this, the Jews again picked up stones to stone Him. But Jesus responded, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?”

“We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.” (John 10:31-33)

The irony is that it was the Pharisees who were committing blasphemy in refusing to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Nevertheless, Jesus was treated as a blasphemer so that guilty sinners could go free and glorify in Christ their Savior.

“For our sake he [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Also Jesus said, “Furthermore, the Father judges no one, but has assigned all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:22-23)

When it comes to the death penalty, it would no longer be the community of God to enforce that punishment as under the Mosaic covenant, but Lord Jesus Himself under the new covenant.

Therefore, when a person commits blasphemy, they do deserve the death penalty, but when Jesus changed human history through His death and resurrection, that person can choose between the following destinies:
-trust in Jesus to be the perfect sinless sacrifice to take his place against the Father’s wrath and to be the resurrected great high priest who intercedes on his behalf or
-face the consequences of his sin which will be enforced by Lord Jesus Himself.

In a sense, Jesus can either die in your place or punish you Himself.
He is either your Savior or your Judge.

As Psalm 2:12 puts it:
“Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

 

Preparing for Good Friday

If you were to ask me what I think about Good Friday, I would say that Good Friday is the most outrageous event in human history.

At the center of the day is this event: The God, who created the cosmos that Stephen Hawkings admired, died at the hands of the people He created.
What a tragedy when creation does not recognize and even kills its own Creator.
“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:14-15a).

We know from our reality such saddening events as the following:
-Lupus and other autoimmune diseases are when the human body attacks itself.
-Civil wars are tragic because you have brother pitted against brother, or a government attacking its own citizens.
Perhaps we recognize the unimaginable moral ugliness and offensiveness of such events precisely because they ultimately point us to our failure to recognize our Creator, even to the point of killing Him.

Now what makes the death of Jesus, God the Son in the flesh, even more outrageous is that He willingly gave up His life on our behalf.  He knew that He would be killed by His own people and He gave His life up so that He could secure their reconciliation to Himself.

We humans are mere specks compared to God, and even more than that, we committed high treason against Him. For all intents and purposes, God could have left us alone since we were the party that broke off our agreement with Him.  We have forsaken the LORD, we have despised the Holy One of Israel, and we are utterly estranged from Him.

But God on His own initiative went to the trouble of securing the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation.

The significance of Good Friday would make headlines that you would not see any time soon:
-King dies for traitorous rebels.
-Husband dies for a wife that cheated on him.
-Father dies for a son that hated him and ran away from home.
-Man takes the place of someone on death row who was guilty of killing his family.

In essence: we have a holy God dying for sinful mankind.

Given that we have a Creator that gave His life up for our sake to bring us back to Him when we forfeited that right to His presence, how much more should leaders at every level of society use their authority in a manner that seeks the good of the people in their care even if it comes at their own expense.

World leaders such as Xi Jinping, Kim Jung-un, Bashar al-Assad, Putin, and Trump are all in a position of authority, and they have a moral responsibility to use that authority for the good of their people and of their neighbors.  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Wayne LaPierre are both people who have used their authority and influence in ways that have caused people a lot of harm and destruction.  They both propagated a narrative that has led to the deaths of innocent people. The police, military, and other law enforcement officers have a moral responsibility to exercise their authority in a responsible manner and not put to death innocent people even as they do what they can to bring guilty individuals to justice.

In our country, we hope our lawmakers would find sense in creating legislation that can bring justice and accountability to such things as immigration, gun safety, environmental issues, sexual identity, police brutality, abortion, opioids, Syrian refugees, and the like.  With a proper understanding of force of law, and doing our best to wield that authority properly, we have to do what we can to find common ground and put forth measures that will benefit us all.

Good Friday is also a picture of forgiveness.
Forgiveness builds bridges, but it is costly.

Note also that Jesus did not wait for us to apologize before He came and took the initiative to set out measures needed to secure our forgiveness and reconciliation. We were the guilty party and by all intents and purposes, we should have been the ones to ask God for forgiveness. God already secured the means of our reconciliation before we even asked for it.  How much more should we adopt the same gracious attitude towards one another?

Both sides, the right and the left, have to swallow their prides for forgiveness to happen.
The right have been called racists, fascists, and bigots and the left have been called “libtards,” snowflakes, and commies.  Both sides have members that are quick to demonize the others, but there are also those who do not dive into such extremes, and they are just not as vocal and public as the more outrageous, outspoken individuals.

This past presidential election has done a lot in dividing this country.  Perhaps it is time that we do what we can to heal the divide before it gets worse.  I would love to see more conversation happen between the two sides of this country.  I would like to see bridges built instead of burnt.

Both sides should not have to wait for the other side to apologize to start having a civil discourse about the things we need to do to help our country pursue justice and the public good.  Once one side calls the other side names, that just shuts the conversation down and we would not get anywhere productive. My proposal is to ask both sides to see the best in others even when they fail to give it back to you.

In other words, be gracious with your opponent.

Take some time to hear from the other side, and do not immediately shut their arguments down by calling it “bigoted” or “socialist”, but at least take some time to explain why you think such and such an argument is unsound and unhelpful.  Also it is far too easy to make a straw man of the other side, so at least actively look for the best arguments put forth by the other side and work with the people who have nuanced, thoughtful opinions instead of those who dive into an all or nothing mentality.

To conclude my thoughts:
-Good Friday is the most outrageous event in human history:
God became human and gave up His life on behalf of people who wanted nothing to do with Him.
Some implications for us:
-ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior so you can be reconciled to God
-if reconciled to God, you should now behave in a manner befitting of your renewed allegiance
Some things that Jesus modeled for us to imitate:
-authority is at its best when it seeks the good of others even at its own cost, so seek self-sacrificial leadership
-forgiveness is costly but it builds bridges and is proactive, seeking to respect others even before respect is received, so be gracious to your opponent for the sake of unity