Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jesus Christ, Rebel with a Cause

Dear Friends,

I’m a little embarrassed to have to tell you that God has been pressing in and dealing with me about my offensiveness to others. To be faced with this stumble in my Christian walk is discomforting to say the least. I don’t say this to justify my unChristlike behavior, but I suppose I am no more or no less offensive than the majority of Christian believers. We move carefully through our days trying to say and do the right things as we seek the approval of others so that they will like us. We may even work hard at times to bite our tongue so that we don’t offend people with our faith. In our increasingly secular culture, we’re not even sure if it’s still okay to say “God bless you” when someone sneezes. We try hard to not be offensive to others and in my own eyes, I’m doing a good job with that. And that’s the problem. Because when I look at the world through the eyes of Jesus, I realize that I’m not being nearly offensive enough.

Today’s church has sanitized our Savior to the degree that He has become an inoffensive and mild-mannered Rabbi and not the maverick Rebel that He was. But if He was only the gentle Jesus telling stories with the children sitting on His lap, He would have never been crucified. Jesus was killed because He continually offended the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders. He condemned their legalistic beliefs and told them that their pedantic religious practices had excluded God’s people from living their lives in the presence of their Holy Father. (Matt 23:13)

Jesus offended money changers in the temple by telling them, “My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt 21:12-13) Today, He would be in mega-churches and kicking over tables selling the guest speaker’s books, DVD’s, “anointed” prayer cloths and cheesy gift items imprinted with their ministry logo.

Jesus offended the universalists in His day and those of other religions by telling them, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Today, Jesus would not be permitted to preach His exclusionary theology in most mainline churches for fear of offending those who have diluted the Gospel with the teachings of Oprah and believe that all spiritual pathways and beliefs lead to God and eternal life.

Jesus offended sinners by telling them, “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8) Can we really get any more politically incorrect than that these days? By offending the transgender political lobby and same sex marriage advocates, Jesus would be banned today from our Nation’s schools, military organizations, many churches and of course, the White House.

Jesus did not come to conform Himself to the religious culture of the day. He came to confront and transform that culture – to reform and redeem it. Jesus did not play it safe. He was a dangerous threat to their status quo. He was both politically and religiously incorrect. Always righteous. Always loving. Always offensive.

We slide down a slippery slope when we try hard to conform ourselves to the prevailing culture and contort our Christian beliefs to be non-offensive to others. It’s been said that if you try to become what everybody wants you to be, you’ll become somebody you don’t want to be. Remain on that slope and eventually you'll find yourself at the bottom. Looking deep within your own soul and unable to even recognize the person you've become.

Maybe one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a sojourner in this world is who you will offend. It’s guaranteed you’ll be offending someone. The only question is, who? Speaking God’s Word will offend atheists and liberal Christians alike. Not speaking God’s Word will offend Jesus. 
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:36-38)  

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