Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How Offensive Is Jesus?

The great moral standard of our present age is tolerance.  Often, this tolerance is defined by not offending someone else with your words or actions.  To speak "negatively" of another's actions is considered a great transgression.  To be a civil and moral person is to be someone who not only doesn't speak poorly about another's behavior, but to also affirm it in some manner. 

My son's favorite phrase lately is, "You're a bully".  This is most often employed when I speak firmly with him about something he needs to stop doing, or, start doing.  Last night I told him it was time to go to bed.  Shockingly, this did not cause him to immediately jump up from his seat and run to the bathroom to brush his teeth.  After a few moments I spoke much more firmly, "Get up right now or there will be consequences.  When daddy says its time to go to bed we listen and obey"  To which he replied, "You're being a bully!"

We don't like being told what to do.  We don't like being told that what we are currently doing is not acceptable.  It infringes on our "rights".  Who do they think they are to tell us what to do???

Like a strong willed four year old we want to believe that there is no questioning our choices.  What I think is right must be right...because I think it!

Jesus is often wildly misrepresented as some sort of hippy do gooder singing "Kum Bay Yah" around a fire with his buddies.  And he just wants to chill with you and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside because he is alllll about love.  This Jesus we have created is one who has very little to say about behavior, sin, heaven, hell, or any other "messy" topic.  His greatest purpose is to teach us all to, as the theologians Bill and Ted would say, be excellent to each other.

With this Jesus in mind speaking about sin to a culture mired in it is mocked and called hypocritical.  Accusatory questions like, "Do you think anyone is going to listen to you when you are being bully?  Jesus just loved people, I thought you were supposed to be like him!" are heard quite often.  Any person bearing the name "Christian" who has ever spoken publicly about some issue has heard some form of these accusations.

If we are to be faithful witnesses, to be disciples of Christ, how ARE we supposed to conduct ourselves in a fallen world?

Jesus angered people.  They didn't crucify him because he was trying to host a drum circle while reciting love poetry.  So the question is, why did they crucify him, what made them so angry? 

1)  He blasphemed.  He said He was God.  He didn't just say He was there to teach people to be nicer.  He said, I AM.  He claimed divinity.  He acted in alignment with that claim by not just healing, but FORGIVING sins. 

Even today, the claim that there is a God, and that Jesus is God, is offensive.  Why?  We want to be God.  Or, we want God to be the one we can define and control.  The story of history is mankind constantly trying to assert their own divinity and power and the disastrous consequences that flow from that belief. 

Right now, Jesus is speaking to you.  You are not your own god, God alone is God.  That is offensive to us.  We shout, "you're a bully!!"  What we think is what we want to think.  We are in charge of our own lives.  How dare someone say otherwise.

2)  He said that what you think is good is not good at all.  We want to believe that we are good people.  And that our choices are therefore good.  Jesus cut right through self-righteousness and took what people thought was good enough to justify themselves in the great scales of eternal justice and said it was crap.  People hate that. 

The Pharisees were constantly getting called out by Jesus.  They had created a whole system of laws and rules to prove how good they were.  And Jesus said that they were white washed tombs.  They looked good, but there was nothing good in them.  Not in God's eyes. 

But I am not a religious Pharisee might be your defense.  You're wrong!  We ALL are religious Pharisees.  People love to say Jesus saved his harshest words for the religious leaders.  This is a misunderstanding of what Jesus was calling out.  He wasn't calling out a bunch of devout believers.  He was calling out false religiosity created by man to self-justify themselves. 

Whether you believe in God or not, or, practice any sort of religion, you have a bit of Pharisee in you.  There are a whole system of rules, morals and ethics, you hold yourself to in the attempt to be a "good enough" person.  And, when others don't live up to your standards, like the Pharisees, you look down on them for not being as good as you are.  Being self-righteous is soooo much fun.  That's why we all do it. 

Jesus was very offensively clear.  YOU ARE NOT A GOOD PERSON.  Nothing you do to prove you are good proves that you are good.  There is only one who is Good.  And that is Christ.  There is only one way for us to be Good.  To be in Christ.

This is very offensive.  The message of Christ is that you are not a good person.  Perhaps you do plenty of things that make you an enjoyable person to live next to and you operate as a beneficial member of your local society, but, at the end of the day, you are not truly Good.  Only a good legalist. 

Now, here is the problem for Christians.  In what ways are you being offensive?  Because we should be offensive like Christ was offensive.  Not just offensive.

If your message to someone is not about the all surpassing glory of Jesus and His goodness, then you are just being offensive. 

Let me give a brief conversation example.

Bad Example:
Christian:  What you are doing is wrong.  You are a sinner.  Yuck

Good Example:
Christian:  Only Jesus is Lord.  Anything we choose to put on the throne before Him leads to death. 

Both can be viewed as offensive.  But only one talks to the world like Jesus talked to the world.  You do not share Truth with people by complaining about their particular sins.  You share Truth with them by speaking about He who is the Truth and how that shapes how we view ALL the things in our lives. 

Be offensive like Jesus.  Don't JUST be offensive.

Not exactly what I mean, but who doesn't love this guy?

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