If We’re Not Offending Anyone, Are We Being Faithful?
Question: “When you make your ministry and services ‘hospitable’ to people who do not embrace Christian teaching, don’t you risk compromising your commitment to biblical truth? Doesn’t the Bible say that Christians will be the ‘aroma of Christ’ to some, and the ‘stench of death’ to others?”
Answer: As follows…
This is an excellent and important question. Of course the aroma of Christ is going to be the ‘stench of death’ to some. The Scriptures are quite clear about this. We should never try to offend people, but we should also expect it to happen on occasion.
I hope that at CPC we have been careful along the way to point this out. However, on this subject the question here is one of emphasis.
We really need to be asking:
What kinds of people were drawn to Jesus?
What kinds of people were repelled by him?
Can the same things, in both instances, be said of us and the Christian communities we are part of?
Whatever the answers to the first two questions are, we most certainly want the same to be said of us.
First century religious leaders took offense at Jesus because ‘all sinners’ found him to be attractive. They wanted to be around him (Lk 15.1-2). This included people who were sexually broken, crooks, pagans, secular intellectuals, etc.
At our church, we measure faithfulness to Jesus, at least in part, by whether or not proud, doctrinaire religious people resist our message and humble, broken, spiritually receptive people are drawn to the same message.
Bible-believing, religious Pharisees applauded themselves for taking a “stand” for truth, as in the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18. Notice how many times he mentions himself, and how few times he mentions God:
“Thank you, my God, that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers, tax collectors…'” (see Luke 18:9-14)
But in fact, it was often these more religious folks who, without seeing it, stood against the heart and purposes of God.
The very people Jesus came to befriend, help, and save (the sick, the sinners) felt unsafe and marginalized in smug, doctrinaire religious people’s presence.
To the contrary, humble and tired “sinners” who went to Jesus begging for grace went home forgiven and liberated by the one who loved them and gave himself for them. (Zacchaeus, the Luke 18 tax collector, the woman in Luke 7, etc.).
So if we are going to offend anyone, let’s hope it will be the proud, and only the proud, because these were the people who got offended at Jesus. If humbled or hurting people feel offended or excluded by us, or cast out, or ostracized, we should carefully examine, and rapidly correct, both our message and our methods. Otherwise said church will be running against Jesus instead of running alongside him.
One final thought. Christians and churches should never try to offend. The Bible says that as far as it depends on us, we should seek to be at peace with all people. Offending proud people is never a goal of faithfulness to the way of Jesus, only an at-times-inevitable byproduct.