The worst role model in history?

My post on the Sola Panel yesterday:

The [incident] involving rugby league personality Matthew Johns was predatory, degrading and offensive, federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis says … “I think that’s offensive and inappropriate for our sporting role models.”

But where does that leave the Apostle Paul?

The comment quoted above is typical of the huge volume of condemnatory statements being made about Johns in recent days in response to the revelation that he had participated in distasteful sex acts in the past. The lascivious details of the incident have been repeated ad nauseum by media outlets. Johns’ behaviour, while strictly ‘legal’, has been rightly rejected as unconscionable. He has been sacked or suspended from many public positions where he might be seen as a role model by younger players or viewers. You can’t have such a person acting as an ambassador for your cause or a host of your TV show.

This is why the Apostle Paul’s position is so surprising. Remember that sordid episode in his early career? Not only did he stand by and approve while a saintly Christian leader was violently executed by a gang of religious leaders (Acts 7:58-8:1), he embarked on a personal vendetta against Christians, doing his utmost to wipe them off the face of the map. His actions, while strictly legal, were utterly unethical (Acts 9:1-2). He was persecuting the Lord himself (Acts 9:4-5). Paul himself admits that his behaviour made him the lowest of low-life scumbags (1 Cor 15:9, Eph 3:8).

So how did God respond to Paul’s predatory behaviour? Did God sack him from his position as a member of his chosen people Israel? Did God issue public statements of condemnation? No! In fact, God gave Paul a promotion! God appointed Paul to be his very own personal ambassador to the world—a role model for billions of Christians ever since:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ … (Paul, Eph 3:8)

What’s the difference between God and Channel 9, Johns’ former employer? How could God possibly countenance such a low-life scumbag as his personal ambassador? And why would I want to teach my kids to listen to anything Paul says?

The answer lies at the very heart of the message that Paul was commissioned to preach. It was a message of forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn’t sweep sin under the carpet or leave the victims in the lurch; he paid the ultimate price for sin and satisfied the justice of God. He brings real forgiveness and real repentance (not half-hearted apologies), and restores even the worst of sinners to the status of being a glorious co-heir of God. That’s why Paul, the worst of sinners, is the perfect ambassador for this message.