I have been thinking a
lot about how Christians can speak of their faith in a pluralistic culture that
views truth-claims as suspect. Some Christians would say that if we are not
offending anyone we are merely being “nice Canadians” who want to stay on good
terms with everyone. These Christians believe that we are supposed to offend
others with our faith and our approach to life. They will quote passages of the
Bible that speak of us being hated because we follow Jesus and say, “There, get
out and offend others because that is what is supposed to happen!” (See
especially Matthew 5:11.)
Let’s take a closer
look at this. First, the message of Jesus Christ is offensive. (So when we
preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say
it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23)
Jesus came into the
world proclaiming that he is “the way, the truth, the life.” He said that no
one can get to God except through him (John 14:6). Those are bold, offensive
statements in the culture of his day and in our culture today. The good news,
or gospel, of Jesus Christ is offensive exactly because it challenges us to
follow the ways of Jesus (justice, truth, and love) rather than our own ways.
It takes ourselves off of the throne of our lives and puts Jesus squarely in
control. So yes, the message of Jesus will offend.

Secondly, even though the
message will offend, we need not be offensive. It is Jesus and his message that
offends, not us. Because we believe an offensive message, we must, all the more,
seek to be gracious, loving, humble, and truthful. It is not good for me to say
that others are sinners in the eyes of Jesus without also speaking the truth
that I too am a sinner who fails daily to live up to putting Jesus on the
throne of my life. We need to humbly recognize that living by the truth of God
is difficult and that all of us struggle to put aside our own desires and place
the values of Jesus foremost in our lives.
Thirdly, as Wendell Berry
said in The Jefferson Lecture and Other
, “We cannot know the whole truth, which belongs to God alone, but
our task nevertheless is to seek to know what is true.” There must be a
recognition in our lives that, although we are seeking to know what is true, we
do not yet know the whole truth. We must recognize that our understanding of
Jesus, and the way he is explained in the Bible, is incomplete. We must choose,
like others to whom we speak, to seek an ever more complete understanding of
When we come to others
with sensitivity, love, and humility, the gospel will indeed still offend, but
it will be Jesus who offends and not us. Jesus came into the world full of
grace and truth; we must seek to do the same.

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