A Rock of Offense

If we are going to get involved in local missions work then we should understand something about our message. The gospel is offensive. It either joyfully invites or spitefully reminds us of who we are. Our society is creating and pandering to offense everywhere, so generating more offense is an apt topic. How do we speak if our words truly wound? If we continue to establish a society of victims then the thought police have to take over in order to keep everyone safe. If that were to happen then the Gospel would be as outlawed here as it is in China. The thing is though that the Bible is pretty straight forward on Jesus being a stumbling block, a rock of offense that the unbelieving world trips over. This was always going to be our challenge. The offensive nature of the message will always be present, that should not be a deterrent. As Peter writes:

(Jesus) is the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone, a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. (1 Peter 2:7,8)

Paul writes that this message of Christ crucified is a foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those that are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor 1:8)

And they both comment quoting the Old Testament:

Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a cornerstone and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. (Romans 9:34, 1 Peter 2:6)

Do they land with recognition or revulsion?

Well we cannot always know but what we can do is learn to let the offense lay where it does. It is like golf, the ball plays where it landed. Jesus brings offense but his people do not get offended themselves, why? Because we were told ahead of time that we would suffer, and this is where the power lays. We were told ahead of time that this message don’t jive. The Gospel was offensive before it was cool to be a victim of offense in America.

See the world has the corner on offense. America especially so as well as the walls and the roof. What we can do is let the offense lay where is does and poke at the why? See we as followers of Christ cannot play this game. If we find something offensive we recognize this house is not our home. We do what we are able to make it a more comfortable place but what we do not do is wave our flag of offense. That is playing their game. We need to take it down and burn it. Being comfortable is not our aim. Loving only when it comes without challenges and pain is not a healthy way to live. True love will always invite pain. True love is costly. True love has an endgame, the other person.

It is like trying to help a scared injured dog who just wants to lash out at those trying to give aid. We try to wrap his wounds but he growls, we try to apply the balm and he bites. There is no tail wagging. Compassion would compel the person onward while self-protection would say “Fine fido, enjoy your demise.” We can react this way being called offensive and throw in the towel or recognize that while the Gospel is offensive it is worth it because eternal souls are at stake.

Evangelism is hard. But this is not about going door to door and handing out tracks. This is about what Christ is asking of you. This isn’t about going out to become a missionary to a foreign field, we are already on one. This is about the people who God has placed in your life.

This is the Christians’ conundrum. Even though we may have a relationship with a person, it is still offensive to suggest that they “need to be saved”.

How do you communicate this to a basically “good” person? How do you share with a combative person? How do you love a loveless person? How do you hope for a hopeless world? How do you pray for a wicked people? How do you reason with an antagonistic man? How do you care for a hurtful person? How do you witness to mocking world? How do you forgive such wickedness? How do I do this when they believe I am being mean and bigoted?

Well by doing it, and then doing it again. Doing it by understanding that our call is to bring more brothers and sisters to the King. Understanding that it is not easy but that it is both necessary and worth it.

I realized I have to ask myself do I care as much as they might be offended? Part of answering this is counting the cost. Not just personal cost, but eternal cost. It is tempting to ask all the “but” questions. But what about this sin, and that sin and that behavior and that catastrophe, and that deed, that destruction, and those lives that were destroyed and, those wicked evil doers who I don’t think deserve forgiveness?

The reasons I see for not sharing is twofold, either we don’t think they deserve it or we are fearful of their reaction. The first is a lack of belief in God’s justice/mercy and the second is a lack of belief in God’s power, both are disobedience to our very purpose for remaining on the earth. I suppose there is a third option of apathy but that is never an option for the Christian. This was Jonah’s problem. He both feared the Ninevites reaction and what God would do. He believed they didn’t deserve forgiveness and feared they might respond. He knew that God would forgive them. He understood God’s nature and was using it against them, he decided they needed judgment.

Many of the prophets didn’t have a good time while sharing their messages.

Are we like Jonah? More concerned for the plant that gives us shade than those approaching their fated demise in the city? If I am honest I know I am sometimes. Do we kind of like the idea of Kill em’ all and let God sort them out? Well, God asks us to be a part of the sorting, but the part that takes place before the dying. Go out and get involved in some relationships. The good news may be offensive, but don’t be offensive and perhaps God will move in their lives. Remember, gentleness and respect.

We need to check our hearts to see if they are in line with what the Gospel actually is. The Gospel calls all and that means all are potential brothers and sisters.

God give us softer larger hearts for a dying world.

thanks

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