“According to the study, half of Christian pastors occasionally or frequently feel limited in their ability to speak out about controversial issues out of concern they will offend people” (The Metro Voice, Vol 13, No. 9, 5/19). Because ultimately in our day and time offended people don’t just leave church, they hire a lawyer and sue people.
Then I’m reading John 6 and 7 right now and Jesus really offends people: He had the audacity to heal on the Sabbath, an offense they deemed worthy of the death penalty. Then he had the audacity to tell them he was the bread of life. And when it caused them trouble, he taught even harder things. He finally said this:
“Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words i have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe” (Jn 6:61-64).
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (6:66)
Jesus, the Early Church and Offense
Jesus didn’t try to avoid offense, he actually seemed to embrace it. Provoke it. And thus reveal what was in their hearts. He wasn’t stupid either. When they were trying to kill him he purposely delayed his going to the Jewish Feast (7:1). But holding back for fear of offending someone was never on his agenda.
He healed… on the Sabbath. He said audacious things. He offended.
Yes, he was persecuted for it. But he moved forward in faith.
The Early Church
We see in the early church that persecution was “normal.” Jesus was persecuted. The disciples were persecuted. The early church people were killed and imprisoned. They were sued. Their possessions were confiscated. This was normal Christian life.
In fact Paul said that, “All who live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
Yes, they were persecuted for it. But they moved forward in faith. Even at the cost of their lives.
The Modern Life
Because we have been so accustomed to our Christianity not costing something in the West, when it starts to cause issues like has been growing, we back off, fearing to offend. We don’t speak up in our jobs or in certain situations because we might get sued. But is this how we should live? Is this how the early church lived?
The Scriptures are written in such a way that it implies we should expect pressure and persecution, but that we should not hold back.
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
Think on These Things
Have we now become the shrinking ones? Fearing to offend? Fearing to get sued?
O, where is the faith of those who are saved (Heb 10:39)?
Where is the Chrsitian culture that expects and embraces persecution (2 Tim 3:12)?
Where is the “leaping for joy” because great is our reward in heaven because people have hated us, excluded us, insulted us and reject us because of his name (Lk 6:22-23)?
May we embrace Paul’s word:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:10-11)