Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's A Feature, Not A Bug

Here is what's been working through my mind lately regarding being offensive.

Offensive Institutionally

The wisdom from the seeker sensitive movement often goes something like this: earn the right to witness to your neighbor about Jesus by doing good deeds for them, then use that built up capital to invite them to a church service, but don't say or do anything that would offend them. Once they're there, don't offend them with outdated or offensive doctrines, because we want them to come back. If they're comfortable, they'll return, if they're offended, they'll leave. Our goal is to get people to hear as much of the Bible as possible, because the more, the better.
Probably true. 

But what if being offended is a feature God built into the gospel proclamation, and not a bug? What's if it's not an embarrassing side effect we should seek to minimize but an essential ingredient in our message? What if taking out the offense of the gospel results in another gospel which cannot save? I submit that it's better for the non-believer to clearly hear the gospel message and walk away offended than for them to hear a thousand feel-good sermons that never offended them. We need to be willing to pay the consequences again.

Offensive Personally

I've got enough distance from when all our old church friends ditched us to see clearly now, and therefore can finally say something meaningful about something other than how it feels. While in the pain I suspected myself as the one at fault for being needlessly churlish, because let's face it, I'm often needlessly churlish, but now after they were gracious enough to talk to us about it I see what's happened. I offended them. Badly. Because I rebuked the old church and left it. Because I condemned their doctrine and course of ministry as both insufficient and headed into non-Christianity. They like the church's new direction and don't want to hear a rebuke. Thus, I unwittingly handed them a huge dose of offense. You know what? Maybe that was God speaking to them. I do not repent of the decision to leave that church, and if it came with a painful lash across their conscience, then perhaps God meant for that to happen as a lesson.

Offensive at a Distance

At the same time I've been watching a friend of mine get it from his old denomination for breaking away from them. They're offended by him. They're angry. They don't like it. But the fact of the matter is truth isn't pleasant. It hurts. And perhaps that's a good thing. A very good thing. Because otherwise we might take the soft road right into hell without ever being jolted awake.


Eddie Eddings said...

A hearty Amen! Enough of this Bible/God make-over among Christians. These churches keep Jesus on the outside AND the inside! They would rather offend God than man. Shameful.

Joel Ellis said...

Excellent. Thanks, brother.

Andy & Meg Williams said...

Well said.
A former friend told me in a discussion (about people like you and your friend) that we should never make Christians uncomfortable, especially regarding doctrine that doesn't line up with the traditional or majority view of the denomination--in the presence of weaker Christians (those less grounded in the proof texts and arguments).
How interesting that this same person and many of our former friends had no problem spreading rumors and saying things that made lots of people uncomfortable when we left the denomination a short time later.
Yet I would have been the same way, but for the grace of God.

Mark R said...

It's hard to take your reflections on this matter seriously. The self-satisfaction you take from demonstrating the failings of others is palpable.

By far, the NT's favorite metaphor for the church is that of a family. On many levels it is a dysfunctional family. And, even to family members, there are times one must say hard things. Even offensive things. But one says them not as a way of cutting ourselves off from the family but out of a commitment to restore wholeness to it.

Think about our role as parents. We must say things that are "offensive" to our kids all the time. Pointing out misbehavior, withholding things they want but shouldn't have, etc. Ultimately, however, we hope that they will come to understand that our "offensive" comments were themselves expressions of love. That they will see them that way is no given. Especially if it's accompanied by a severing of the relationship. Saying tough things is necessary but it is never easy. Not if we are dedicated to the family.

Phil said...

Man Mark R... it's like you're not even reading the article at all...