Saturday, June 29, 2013

Man, Did He Tick Some People Off!

He read something written centuries earlier.  After reading it, He closed the book and sat down.  With all eyes fixed on Him, Jesus declared that this prophetic word declared by the prophet Isaiah was speaking of Him.  I imagine there was a moment of silence immediately following where you could have heard a pin drop as everyone tried to make sense of what just happened.  They couldn't bring themselves to believe it.  Although something about Him seemed to confirm this truth, they struggled to accept it.  Jesus goes on to speak some other truths and before you know it He has ticked them all off.  So much so they want to kill Him right then and there.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, stirs up conflict here. This is not just a little disagreement. They want to KILL HIM! This is not an isolated event in the life of Jesus. Time after time He speaks and it results in men so angry to the point they want to kill Him. Reading these accounts in the Gospels makes one realize that Jesus didn't come to pacify people and walk on egg shells.  He came to speak the truth. He wasn't ugly about it, but He wasn't a passive pansy either.  He presented the truth and allowed man the freedom to accept it or reject it.  In doing so, this truth caused major conflict.

How could it not?  We are talking about the collision of two opposing kingdoms.  Of course, there is going to be conflict. By why can't we all just get along? Yeah, right! This assumption that we can maintain the peace is completely absurd. The kingdom of this world is set against the kingdom of God. It is in complete contradiction to the kingdom of God.  It is impossible for them to coexist without major conflict.  God's Word is truth.  It's absolute truth and that truth always faces opposition.  When the truth is presented it requires that one get off the fence and take sides.  Truth requires a decision to accept it or reject it.  There is no middle road when it comes to the truth.  While the world wants desperately to create some gray areas, there are none. It is a black and white world and those two sides are at constant war with one another.        

There's the belief in Christianity that all Jesus did was walk around hugging everybody and wiping away their tears.  He's often pictured as this really nice guy who encouraged everyone just to get along with everybody else.  While those ideas somewhat represent His character, they are anything but complete. Sure, Jesus had mercy and compassion on the woman caught in adultery, but then He spoke directly to her sin and told her to quite doing it. How about the time Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years by the pool of Bethesda?  Naturally, he loved the man enough to heal him, but then He tells him to sin no more (John 5:12).  He doesn't sweep the major issue under the rug.  While it was important for this man to be healed, the bigger issue was his spiritual well being. Jesus did not come to deal with surface issues, He came to crush the root.  Jesus, Himself, makes the statement that He didn't come to bring peace, but He came to bring a sword (Matthew 10:34).  Scripture tells us that He came to destroy the works of the devil.  Jesus didn't come to be a nice guy, He came to wage war.  He came to bring light into a dark world.  A dark world that wanted no part of the light.  He came to destroy the kingdom of darkness.  While the Jews were expecting their Messiah to overthrow the Roman government, He actually came to make war with a kingdom much more powerful.  He came to speak the truth and to open the eyes of humanity.  Eyes that had been blinded by deception.  But, when He spoke that truth, many didn't want to hear it.  They didn't want their eyes opened.  They fought Him at every turn. They mocked Him. They rejected Him.  Some said He was crazy.  Others said He had a demon. There were times He was literally run out of town (Mark 5:17, Luke 4:29).  There were times He had to escape in order to prevent from being killed (John 10:39). I think many have this concept that it was only the religious leaders of the day that rejected Him, but that's not true.  Many rejected Him.  Sure, there were many that followed Him, but multitudes rejected Him and everything He had to say.

There was a spiritual climate in the day of Jesus that just wanted Him to back down.  It wanted Him to stop rocking the boat and stop stirring up conflict.  It was ok, if He wanted to be nice to people but they wanted no part of Him if He was going to get up all in their business. How dare He shine light on the darkness they had embraced!  How dare He speak to the corruption in their heart or reveal the corruption in their culture! They wanted Him to just sit down and shut up.

Today, truth faces that same kind of opposition.  Just like in the days of Jesus, there is a spiritual dynamic within our culture that wants us as followers of Christ to just keep to ourselves.  It permeates throughout our culture at every possible turn.  If we aren't careful, we'll bow to that demonic ideology thinking its actually of God.  After all we need to love our neighbor right?  While its true that we need to love our neighbor, I think its vitally important to reevaluate what loving our neighbor really means.  What does that look like?  Jesus loved humanity enough to tell them the truth.  We aren't loving anybody when we dance around the truth for fear of ticking them off.  No, we don't need to be jerks, but speaking the truth is a part of loving people.  It's risky though.  It takes boldness and it could lead to us being completely rejected.  Let's face it, it's much easier to keep quite and determine not to stir up conflict.  But, that isn't love.  Loving people demands that we speak the truth even when its unpopular, uncomfortable, and counter-cultural.

Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and all the rest of the apostles had a long history of ticking people off.  Their motive wasn't to stand on a soap box or make people mad, but they cared enough for humanity to speak the truth.  That truth wasn't condemning but it did present mankind with the choice of life or death.  As followers of Christ we are living in a dream world if we think for one minute that everyone is going to love and accept us or the message we bring.  If we aren't ticking some people off, then we are probably doing something horribly wrong.

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