The Gospel is Offensive, but our churches shouldn’t be (part 1)
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is part 1 of a two part blog post.
We live in a world of tolerance and participation trophies. A world in which we must not offend people. To offend someone not only attacks a person’s character or identity – it’s an attack on who they are and what they believe. We no longer can have simple disagreements or different perspectives without being cast as a liberal or conservative. Everyone has gone from being a person to being a label. It has impacted the church and its mission where we have to walk on eggshells in hopes that we do not offend anyone in the congregation. I get it. Words do matter. How things are said impacts how they are received.
When I served as a youth director there were many times I saw helicopter parents in action. The parents who hover and are ready to swoop in at a moments notice to protect their children from any perceived danger. I’ve even struggled with that as a parent of a toddler. Of course I don’t want my child to do something knowingly stupid where they could get hurt. But there are times where our struggles, and yes, even our moments of idiocy shape us.
For years I was bullied as a teenager. Things were said to and about me that no one should ever experience. It was offensive and it hurt. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it helped shape me into who I am today. I’m nowhere near perfect and there are certainly things that I wrestle with as a result of being bullied. Still, my being bullied, my struggles of self-worth helped me come to the realization that I am loved by God. It made me depend on him. I’m a firm believer in kindness and compassion. I’m a believer in grace and love. I’m a believer in those things because I have experienced them and they have changed my life. Jesus has changed my life.
I think our culture has virtually reduced Jesus to a good role model and an excellent teacher and storyteller because the gospel – the good news – is offensive. The gospel isn’t just a bunch of niceties and well-wishes. It’s a radical call to change. Read Luke 4:14-30
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Jesus just came out of the wilderness, endured the temptations of Satan and began preaching in synagogues. Verse 20 tells us his teachings were powerful, “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Then Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Everyone was amazed.
Then Jesus spoke a hard truth. It wasn’t well received. Read verses 23-27 again. It was all good, until Jesus took it a step further. In one fell swoop Jesus told the chosen people that God was taking his blessing beyond their borders. God was opening the gates to the people who the Israelites hated.
Then the people of Nazareth were angry and drove him out of his hometown. Jesus opened the door for others to come in. The good news of the gospel upset the apple cart.
We may not like it, but the gospel is offensive. It is a message of good news available to all. The gospel isn’t just for us. We can’t keep the love and grace of Jesus just for ourselves. The gospel has deep reaching implications for our lives. It may even upset people we love. If we take the gospel seriously, it will offend because the Scripture is clear. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father except through me.” (John 14:6). We as a people and as a church play a vital role in making sure that the gospel is the ONLY thing that offends when it comes to enabling people to see and experience Christ.
Stay tuned for part 2 next week!