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The Incredible God of Jesus Christ

by Michel Leconte

Translation Louise Thunin

Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you. (Mt. 21:31)
For John the Baptist has come, eating no bread and drinking no wine ; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of man has come eating and drinking ; and you say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners !’
(Luke 7 : 33-34)

In the Old Testament, the unfaithful people of Israel are often compared to a harlot (cf. Hosea 2 :7). A harlot therefore exemplifies moral abomination, debauchery and unfaithfulness to God. Jesus on the other hand will say, to the contrary, and to the shocked disapproval of the clergy and to ˝ proper ˝ people, that harlots and tax collectors (those scandalous sinners and thieving, impure collaborators) go before us into the kingdom of heaven ! We can size up, on the basis of this word alone, the unheard of revolution that Jesus brought to the concept people had of God and of our relationship to Him. Could it be that the specificity of Christianity resides in Jesus’ unsettling behavior with regards to sinners and to sin ? It seems to me that these things are too rarely underscored in the mild sermons of our day.
It is such words and attitudes in Jesus’ teachings that enable me to believe in his God, with reference to the hackneyed moralizing of our common religion, for his God is anything but hackneyed !
Indeed, what Jesus said about God was so original and so out of place with reference to what people usually said, that they were unable to follow him for long on that path : This is a hard saying ; who can lsiten to it ?(John 6 : 60). Jesus subverted the idea of God, religious and civil order, be it the order that reigns within us, that of the family or of the social group we belong to. The good news announced by Jesus is that the Kingdom of heaven is here for us all ; it is here for disbelievers, for those who don’t know the Law, and for sinners, yes, for sinners. Consequently we can all heal, be liberated and find the Life that God desires for us. Not only did Jesus teach that especially in his parables but he did it. He shared his table with sinners, with no prerequisites, other than permission to show that God is really as He says He is. This behavior upset the established order of relations between a « thrice holy » God and sinful men.
And to prove it, he ate with the impure and the sinners, refained from condemning publicans, the woman caught in adultery, prostitutes, and refused to take into account the moral and social prescriptions of his day ; he tore down the « walls of separation » which thrust out onto the fringes of society the poor, the ignorant, the heretical, all those who, according to the law, had no right to God. That’s why Jesus of Nazareth was eliminated by believers, because of what he said about God : his God could only be a false one and his prophet a perverse blasphemer. And so it became urgent that that man should die. The incident in the Temple was probably a mere pretext for his arrest, because it was imperative that that man disappear, since what he said about God and his attitude towared sin and sinners was different from what God was supposed to say…. Truly, this blasphemy deserved death, for the honor of God was seriously called into question, since God can only forgive if one repents after having offered him the appropriate sacrifices. This is what had always been done, social order demanded it; a sinner couldn’t get away with his sin all that easily !
The teaching and the conduct of Jesus consisted in asserting that, in God’s eyes, no human being is to be condemned, even if, from our point of view, he is the most abominable of criminals  ! No, God is not the absolute upholder of our moral order ; He wants men alive and liberated from the burdens they bear. It seems to me that even today we have as much difficulty accepting his message and announcing it as we did back then…


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À propos Gilles

a été pasteur à Amsterdam et en Région parisienne. Il s’est toujours intéressé à la présence de l’Évangile aux marges de l’Église. Il anime depuis 17 ans le site Internet Protestants dans la ville.

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