To offend – or not to offend isn’t really the question. It is impossible not to offend as we live in a diverse and often perverse society. Christmas offends some and others are upset by the Islamic Ramadan or Hindu festivals. Atheists get agitated by' God speak' and evolutionists become frantic when a person believes the Bible’s account of Creation. There are those who cannot abide people from other nations and find it impossible to be courteous to them.
From the Christian perspective in trying not to offend those who disagree with us is actually offensive. We denigrate our faith and thereby our Lord. The issue isn’t about what is in the Christian faith that riles others, but our response when people react. It has been apparent over the Christmas season that some, wanting to be nice, sold out their faith or heritage. Appeasement never solves the problem, it simply pushes it into another issue when the offended person is upset again.
Jesus on earth was the great offender! He upset people’s belief system, elitism, taboos regarding eating with the socially unaccepted. (Check Him out with the Tax collector, Matthew – The Samaritan woman and others such as Luke 7:36-50 – Roman soldiers Etc). Jesus unmasked hypocrisy with strong words (Matthew 23), yet at the same time with grace. The Lord felt sorrow, not glee for those whom He had to rebuke. His example is a tough one to follow, yet by His grace and presence, that is what we must do.
The great offence Jesus caused was not what He said, but what happened to Him! It causes people to be upset ever today because it speaks against their ‘goodness.’ It challenges their religious views of god, salvation and worship. What happened to Jesus? He was crucified! Politics and hatred were the human factors for this event. However, God used it to make His Son the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. This faith isn’t in a dead corpse but in the risen Lord. Jesus took our deserved judgement so that He might bestow upon us undeserved righteousness and eternal life. Read about it in the New Testament.
The cross offends. When you read the history of the Church the message of the crucified and risen Lord stirs up self-righteous indignation. This is still happening even though Christians return good for evil, feed the hungry and care for the sick. How does the Lord want us to respond? To pray for those who are offended and become aggressive. To turn the other cheek (if that is hit what then?) But not back away and thus deny the Lord. To be gracious in response and caring by helping those who oppose the cross is not weakness but Christlikeness. Jesus did tell His followers that they would be similar to sheep amongst the wolves. The fact was the wolves would be afraid of the sheep (and their message).
We offend without even saying a word. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 says Christians are similar to clay pots filled with a precious perfume. It seeps out. That fragrance is the saving, transforming, forgiving, rejoicing and eternal presence of Christ. When we move amongst people they will be affected by this spiritual aroma. Some will appreciate it. Some will wonder what it is. Others will be offended and want to get rid of it. Over the years many, many, many ‘clay-pot disciples’ have paid a high price for simply being fragranced by Christ and His word.
Therefore, if you are a Christian don’t be surprised that you are offensive to some one. However, let it draw you closer to Christ and His word so that His grace in you might be the way you respond.
Ray Hawkins 28/12/2015.