In our secular, consumer, politically correct culture, there always seems to me to be an emphasis on not offending each other. We can’t use certain phrases, we can’t say certain things, we’re not allowed to do or say anything which could be the slightest bit misinterpreted. As a result, we can easily misinterpret what someone says and take it offensively, because we’re so used to being politically correct ourselves that when someone says something the slightest bit non-PC we are more aware of it, so more likely to be offended.
Now I am all for respecting people of different skin colours, genders, sexual orientations and any other minority group. In that respect, the PC brigade have it spot on.
As Christians we are called to love our neighbours – ie: everyone – and to accept people as they are, for who they are whatever their history or background, and to forgive people for whatever they have done. Each of us is made in the image of God, whatever our gender, race or politcal and religious belief, and we each have equal value before God – that’s something I believe passionately.
In this respect I would argue Jesus was way ahead of the curve – for example, recognising, honouring and respecting women as individuals in their own right was way ahead of its time 2000 years ago, and Jesus never let somebody’s background, reputation, social status or history get in the way of His loving them – and that’s the model for all of us. It’s something I believe in passionately – and to be honest, its not something the church has always done well.
But not offending anyone?
That’s a bit different.
As I recall, Jesus offended a lot of people.
Primiarly the religious and political establishment, who saw Him as a threat. But He never compromised on His values to fit in with the culture He lived in, He never watered down His message – and sometimes His message wasn’t always easy to hear. Indeed, he offended people so much that they ended up killing Him for it.
Jesus stood up for truth, justice, love, mercy, grace, peace & forgivness. He took a stand against injustices He saw, He upset people when they offended His Father – the turning of the tables was how He responded to people disrespecting God. Not the actions of someone desparate to please everyone.
If Jesus had tried to please everyone all the time, there’s no way He would have ever been killed.
And there’s no way His movement would have lasted 2000 years. Fact.
The truth for us is that if we try and compromise on what we believe to fit in with everyone and remain popular and relevant, then people will think our faith isn’t worth much. And to be honest if we’re willing to do that, it probably tells us a bit about how much our faith is impacting our lives.
However, Jesus wasn’t all the things we associate in our culture with taking a stand for truth. He wasn’t judgemental, He wasn’t arrogant, He wasn’t proud or self-righteous – even though He above all had every right to be. He spoke and stood up for truth, but He did it with infinite love.
The truth in love is an often-used phrase, and often mishandled. It doesn’t mean we speak judgemental comments in a gentle way, it doesn’t mean we patronise people or put them down. It doesn’t give us the right to be rude
But it doesn’t mean we don’t speak up at all either. We need to consider our words and actions carefully, but when we speak them or when we take action, we may have to accept that what we say or do may offend some people.
Now this isn’t an excuse to upset people. It’s not an excuse to be rude, or to try and be offensive for the sake of it. Our job is to love and serve others, and put others first. That’s he heart of what we believe, that the other always has to come first, and we should show respect to people as children of God, part of God’s creation.
But sometimes I think a lot of Christians are so desperate to be ‘relevant’ or not offend people that they end up compromising in their faith.
Is that what’s best for that person? Do we want people to know the real Jesus, or some half-hearted version of Him? Are we afraid to say what we really think because we’re afraid that if we do we’ll be called nutters?
I know that’s been true for me. I fully admit sometimes I’ve not mentioned where I’ve been on Sunday or reasons why I’m too busy to do certain things, and have been afraid to mention church – because I’ve had this underlying feeling that they will think I’m a weird religious freak if I do, or that I’ll be ‘imposing my opinions’ on them if I take a stand on a certain issue.
The key here is to understand that Jesus is in our everyday, part of our everyday, in everything and everything is about Him. He’s not a ‘section’ of our lives, He is our whole lives, and our entire identity needs to be wrapped up in Him.
The very rhythm & heartbeat of our lives has to be defined by Him. When that happens, everything changes much more naturally.
Because then what happens, if Jesus is your whole life rather than a ‘section’ of your life, is you end up telling your story and your experiences to people without using religious jargon, and people can get so compelled that they want to know why you live that way, why you take a stand on certain things, why you don’t let some things bother you and things which bother everyone else don’t bother you.
Why you prioritise one thing over the things everyone else prioritises.
What is it that means so much to you that you are willing to take a stand on it in a just, loving and gracious way?
Jesus wants us to follow Him – He isn’t calling us to make Him a section of our lives, and He’s not calling us to offend people, or to be different for the sake of being different. He just asks us to live by a set of values, to love one another, put the other first, serve one another, whatever our culture tells us.
And He doesn’t ask us to cut ourselves off from the world. He doesn’t ask us to be separate from everyone and be some kind of religious cult group. He asks us to go and make disciples. He tells us to live in such a way that it impacts on the lives of others.
It’s often said ‘preach the gospel, and where necessary use words’.
It’s so true.
Our lives must be a reflection of Jesus, and we shouldn’t be afraid of offending some people – because whenever you take a stand on something you are by definition going to offend someone.
I’d rather be lynched for forgiving someone, or loving someone our culture would deem unlovable, than not do it at all.
Have you ever slightly compromised in your beliefs to fit in with the world around you?
Are you willing to risk unpopularity for standing up for your values?