“He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:3)
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:4-5, 10-11)
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
Many years ago, reading one of Chuck Swindoll’s books (I believe it was Improving Your Serve), I was struck by this line (my paraphrase): “Most people only want $3.00 worth of GOD. They want just enough to feel good, but so much that it will demand something from them.” I think that’s the main reason Jesus was and continues to be offensive to so many people; His standard was so much higher than the common preference ($3.00 worth). His was to seek all of GOD, and that meant yielding all of Himself to GOD. Do you remember how deeply impressed Jesus was with the widow who placed her two pennies into the Temple offering, and by comparison, how unimpressed He was with those who gave so much more out of their abundance?
The life of Jesus was relatively simple to understand because He lived by absolutes: He obeyed GOD; He communed with GOD; He trusted GOD; He was filled with GOD’s Spirit; He despised sin in all of its shades; He offered mercy and grace to every sinner: He offered them abundant life; He made broken people whole; He claimed to be the doorway to GOD; He challenged people to follow Him (i.e. follow His life model); and He lived and died sacrificially. Amazingly, many find Him, for these reasons, to be offensive to their lives.
LET ME MAKE SURE I UNDERSTAND. YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY SURE, THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES?
I suspect that the root of the offense is the idea of a sovereign GOD. If GOD is sovereign, then there is no room for me to define how much of Him I want and how much I don’t. I can’t treat Him like a religious menu. It’s ironic that those who resist some or all of the absolutes related to who Jesus is, want absolute freedom to choose how much of Him they accept. But if GOD is sovereign and Jesus is GOD incarnate, then Jesus is the Lord to whom I need to cede all control. Jesus knew His very being would be a problem for people which is why He said, “Blessed are those who do not take offense at me” (Matthew 11:6; Luke 7:23).
Of course, many have chosen to follow Him, imperfectly but a deep sincerity that does not allow them to soft-sell Him. That kind of commitment tends to make them offensive as well. As far as we know, all of the apostles, along with the early Church, were persecuted severely, and all but one was martyred. This pattern continues today in some parts of the world where the underground Church is alive and doing the business of proclaiming the Savior at great risk. Even in many of the world’s more tolerant places, it is common for Christ and His followers to be dismissed and even mocked. He knew this would happen, and He exhorted His own to keep the faith, and to not grow tired of doing good.
And so the question I’m left with is whether I prefer to be an offense for Christ or an offense to Him. If, in fact, He brought a sword (His Word) to force division and the need to choose (it’s what He said), I choose to be an offense for Him. Look, I don’t want to be offensive to anyone; and I certainly don’t want to be dismissed or ignored or mocked. I don’t want anyone angry at me; but if it comes down to it, I’d rather have Jesus.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2019. All rights reserved to original text content.