Yes! The Gospel is Offensive... But Christians?
I recently posed the following question in the Q and A section of Hub Pages. "What specific words, acts or attitudes in Christians offends non-Christians?" Here is a sampling of responses.
- Smart quotes and scripture citing out of context and empty cliche's.
- I think religion as an excuse is probably the most offensive thing to a non believer... Religion can be used to guide the direction of one person's life, but never should that person use the same religion to guide the direction of someone else's life. That is their ultimate sin, and that is why non-believers need to start pushing back.
- Intolerance. Opposition to gay marriage, being judgmental about sex before marriage, opposing stem cell research etc. etc.
- I suppose it is the 'us against them' mentality. A couple of years ago most of those I called friends joined a church and suddenly I wasn't 'good' enough. Nothing had changed, except them. I was bitter for a while, I actually hated Christianity. I got over it. I'll never forget the callous disregard the call to Christianity instills in people.
As I suspected these and scores of other comments I've gotten on my hubs show that most of the hostility toward the Christian faith comes from believers misusing it and/or nonbelievers misunderstanding it.
Most, but not all
News flash! The Christian faith is offensive. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you."(John 15:18) Peter, quoting from Isaiah 8:14 refers to Christ as a “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (I Peter 2:8) Paul spoke of the "offense of the cross." (Galatians 5:11) History eloquently and convincingly details the millions of men and women and children who have suffered for loving Jesus and being loyal to Him.
Here's a partial list of Christian assertions that are certain to offend normal sensitive people who do not follow the Christian faith.
- The Christian faith is exclusive. The first commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3) 'Nough said.
- Christianity affirms that all human beings gravitate toward evil and self-destruction. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) That's got to annoy any self-respecting non-Christian.
- Further, we declare that the only way out of the human quandary is to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Most outside the Christian faith would admit that they do wrong from time to time but feel that, with a little effort, they can become better, certainly better than their neighbor. It's repulses them to think that some one had to die to rescue them from themselves.
- The Christian faith is all-encompassing, meaning that our Savior is also our Lord. Jesus said, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Notice that that's not a command. It's a statement of fact; like saying, "If you are alive you will breathe" The point is that the Christian faith necessarily unites personal faith from public behavior. The nonbeliever is offended when we go public with our faith. Religion must not enter the public square.
- The Christian faith doesn't make perfect human beings, not in this life. It makes humble, grateful and teachable folk. We are called to repent, confess and receive forgiveness daily. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:8,9) Non-Christians are offended by our failures and ridicule us as hypocrites.
- Finally, the Christian faith calls its followers to promote it worldwide. Jesus commanded, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19,20) That offends those who feel comfortable in their own ways and don't care to change.
These are six essential features of the Christian faith that offend non-Christians but which Christians cannot deny without offending their Lord. To follow Jesus is to make oneself offensive to the world and to incur its hate. Thoughtful and sincere Christians accept that reality.
“The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
That's Paul rebuking Jewish hypocrites. Here's the full quote. "You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” (Romans 2:23,24) The same applies to us today. Let's face it. Christ's worst enemies are often those who claim to follow Him, but instead dishonor Him by their excesses, intolerance and misguided zeal.
How to be faithful to an offensive gospel without adding our own extraneous offenses? That's the challenge. While the Christian faith cannot change and still remain Christian; our practice and promotion of it must constantly change according to the times and cultures we seek to influence. The United States is not longer a Christian nation (if in fact it ever was) and we cannot assume favored status as though that were an advantage. Fact is Christians have always been at their best when living under hardship and persecution.
No, the faithful American Christian is more like Daniel and his friends in heathen Babylon than like David or Solomon at the height of Israel's glory.
What to do!
Well, here's what I'm trying to do. Others and the Lord will have to judge whether I succeed.
- Listen more than talk, specially when under attack. James penned some very wise words I'm trying to practice. "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:19,20) So much of our public engagement is marked by strident assertions that miss the mark because we haven't stopped to listen carefully to what others are say and why.
- Apply the gospel to my own heart and attitude. That means that while I strive for perfection I'm thankful for progress. While I grieve my sin, I acknowledge its presence and gratefully seek both forgiveness and cleansing from the Lord.
- Respect those who differ in conviction and lifestyle. My son died a few years ago of AIDS after living for twenty years as a homosexual. For many years, all I could see in him was a big capital H. But toward the end of his life this old hypocrite recognized qualities of love, thoughtfulness and compassion in him that I could affirm and that strengthened my love for him without in anyway diminishing my conviction that homosexuality is unnatural, self-destructive and wrong. Sorry it took me so long. My bad. My experience with Ben has sensitized me to how I, and many other Christians I fear, are prone to define other by their besetting sins. So and so's a gossip or materialistic or self-indulgent. Instead the Scriptures call us to define others by the fact that they are created in the image of God, whether or not they know it, acknowledge it, or live by it.
- Everything I know and believe doesn't need to be said at once and at every opportunity. Sharing the gospel or offering comfort in some instances need be nothing more than a nod, a sympathetic embrace or an understanding smile. The gospel is to be demonstrated not sold.
- Use God's Word to lead folks to Christ and to urge godliness among God's people, not to claim the authority to settle an issue in the public square. If a public position has merit it can be proposed and defended on its own merits, not by resorting to the Bible which is eschewed by most of our fellow-citizens. It's useless to oppose abortion, defend marriage and fight governmental encroachments by appealing to the Bible, unless, of course, you're talking to the choir. The Christian faith and lifestyle was never intended to be imposed on anyone by coercion. If God has declared something to be true or right in Scripture we can count on it's having sufficient merit on it's own. Is not God the God of truth? So we press it upon the world by our practice and gentle persuasion, never by law and even less by armed intervention.
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As usual, God says it better
"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that,when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." I Peter 3:13-17
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