Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jesus Is An Equal Opportunity Offender

Will the real Jesus please stand up?  Many have a view of Jesus that is inconsistent with the real Jesus.  Some see Him as a weak, humble, lowly individual who was tolerant of all.  Artistic images of a wimpy man with the look of hopelessness in His eyes, holding a sheep, help reaffirm that view.  But is that really what He's like?  Some see Him as a man who was angry with the religious crowd, and loved stirring them up.  Some view Him as a good person who because He loved everyone, would never offend anyone.  Others see Him as a man who was a rebel and revolutionist.

Scripture gives us a very clear picture of who He is, but in order to see the truth of who He is, one can not approach Scripture with presuppositions.  Jesus was indeed a loving person.  As a matter of fact, as God, Scripture declares that He is love.  Love is at the core who He is.  It's not simply something He possesses, its the very essence of who He is.  So, those who see Him as a loving individual, are spot on, but we have to be careful that our understanding of love is not a perverted one.  Does, love dare offend someone? Reading the accounts of Jesus as He walked the earth, one cannot ignore the fact that who He was and what He said offended many people from many different walks of life.  Both the religious and non-religious alike were taken back by Him and the message He shared.  Those who followed Him and those who did not were all ticked off by Him.  So much so that on more than one occasion, they wanted to kill Him.  So, someone who is perfect in love, offends. Interesting!

Some followed Him one day expecting to be fed by Him and were upset when He told them He wasn't going to.  Perhaps, there's a lesson in that account to be learned about simply feeding people who have a much deeper issue that needs addressed than an empty stomach, but that's another topic.  He referred to an outsider as a dog.  He refused to allow the man delivered of demons to follow Him.  He stirred up his hometown, ticked off the religious leaders, and had His own family thinking He had lost His mind.  We all know well his refusal to cast the first stone at the lady caught in adultery, but do we remember the instructions that he gave her after doing so?  His love, which did not condemn her, also instructed her to stop her behavior.  How dare Him, right?  In the middle of this emotionally charged moment for her, He spoke truth to her. He didn't say, it's all ok, you just need a big hug.  He risked hurting her feelings by telling her to stop that behavior.

The truth always carries with it the potential for offense.  None of us are perfect or possess pure heart motives continually.  Sometimes when we are faced with the truth about who we are and what we are doing, we struggle with that truth.  The key is always how we respond to that truth.  When we reject it, then that truth becomes a stumbling block for us.  When we receive it, that truth becomes liberating.  "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free," Scripture tells us.  For us individually, it is important to always be open to allowing the truth of God to penetrate our hearts.  Whenever, we do not allow that, we find ourselves slaves to something we were never designed to be slaves to.

But, what do we do regarding speaking the truth to others.  Loving others demands it.  The spirit of tolerance is not love.  Tolerance is a spirit shrouded in fear, and is more concerned with pleasing others rather than helping to set them free.  Having said that, speaking the truth can do more damage than good, when it is not motivated by love.  Jesus did not offend people for the sake of offending them.  He wasn't grandstanding or simply making a point.  He spoke the truth because He loved them.  He didn't condemn them, but He didn't coddle them either.  There is a balancing act that we must perform, and the key is to always be motivated by love for others.
A couple of weeks ago, Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-a, said something that offended people.  He wasn't mean spirited, he wasn't angry, and he wasn't hateful.  He spoke the truth about what He believes and people were offended.  Some see Cathy, as a villain and a proponent of hate speech.  Some are outraged, and incensed by someone who simply shared the truth.  I don't know Cathy's heart, but his life's journey seems to be consistent with a man who genuinely cares for others.  One must ask themselves what is it about what he said that caused such an offense.  Found in that answer is the truth that has the ability to set one free. In the same way that some were offended by Cathy's statement, some have been offended by the response to Cathy's statement.  All would do good to ask themselves, "why am I offended and what does that reveal about my heart?"  Is there malice in my heart?  Is it righteous indignation or am I simply angry at my fellow man?  Trust me when I say there are spiritual dynamics at work here, and it's important that we see and understand the real enemy we're fighting against.

The fact is that many, both believers and non-believers, really want nothing to do with the truth.  John's Gospel tells us that the light came into the world and man rejected it because they were doing evil things.  Truth always sheds light on things we would rather keep shrouded in darkness.  Because of that, there will always be opposition to the truth.  Even the truth spoken in a non-confrontational way.

God so desperately wants all of mankind set free. Jesus came to the earth to do that.  In order for that to happen though, He could not remain silent for fear of confrontation.  I think its interesting to note that He didn't spend time debating issues.  He spoke the truth and left the hearers with the responsibility of accepting it or rejecting it.  Their path to true freedom was rooted deeply in their freedom to make the choice.  While I'm certain His heart was grieved by those who rejected Him, He never allowed that to affect the way He loved them or how approached others.  

The real Jesus was tough.  While he was compassionate and loving, He was also confrontational.  He was more concerned with individuals becoming free than pacifying them.  John, one of His closest friends here on earth, who knew Him well, recorded in Revelation how he fell down like a dead man when he encountered this same Jesus years later in a different setting.  There was no, "What's up G?" or   "Long time no see, bro."  He fell down flat on his face in awe of someone who was one of his best friends.  Doesn't quite fit the image of some of the artist's renditions I've seen of Him.  Jesus isn't interested in coddling us, He's determined to speak the truth to us at the risk of offending us.  The church should be no different.  We carry with us the answer for the world.  When we bow our knees to the spirit of tolerance, whether its in the church or outside the church, we've ceased to be the liberating force we were created to be. In speaking the truth though, our purpose should always be to set the captives free and love should be at the core of all we do.  Without love, we're simply making noise and eating more chicken.  It's much, much bigger than that.  Jesus isn't nearly as interesting in what we say or do as He is in why we say it and why we do it.  Let's hold to the truth.  Let's live the truth.  Let's speak the truth.  And most of all, let's make sure we do it all with love.

If any part of this BLOG offends, then I guess that's good.  The key is how are you going to react to it?                


1 comment:

  1. Wisdom is required as to when, how and where truth is served. Tolerance is a bad substitute for compassion. Compassion breaks hardened sod in preparation for seeds of truth. Seeds tossed around without the personal connection that comes from compassion are wasted.

    Timely and sensitive article. :)