It was funny- at least I thought it was. So I pulled up social media, typed out my chuckle-worthy thought, hit “Post.” and put my phone back in my pocket. About an hour later, I checked my phone. Apparently, I’m not that funny, and I managed to kick a hornet’s nest and offend both sides of what appears to be a very passionate debate.
I don’t know about you, but every single little thing seems so polarizing. For example:
– School restarts.
– Multi-level Marketing Companies.
– When/If to feed your baby cereal (seriously, if you are in a mom group on social media, DO NOT GO THERE. Let this be your warning).
– Gender and pronoun usage.
And don’t even get close to politics.
This world is a battlefield. It is a battle for our time, attention, money, and ultimately our souls. Every single choice we make is a declaration of our loyalty. Sometimes it’s a tiny declaration. Sometimes it might as well be circulated worldwide.
I grow so weary of the constant bickering on social media. But more than the bickering is the attacks. Every position that we take offends someone.
It was in this mindset that I found myself as I listened to Jamie Himmitt’s song “Prize Worth Fighting For.” Tucked in the middle, this line grabbed me: ” Every choice is an act of war.” The whole disgruntled world seemed to wrap itself into those words.
What if I’m supposed to be offensive? Not vulgar, but stop-you-in-your-tracks-because-it-is-the-only-thing-that-will-save-your- soul offensive?
Jesus was offensive.
When people encountered Jesus, one of two things happened: they changed or were offended. His words were not (usually) the cause of the offense, but rather his message. It was counter-cultural in ways we would have never fathomed.
Now before we look at the “rule” I’m going to address the “exception.” I can already hear someone reading asking,
Didn’t he call the religious leaders of that day a brood of vipers among other things?” Yes, sometimes Jesus was no-holds-barred offensive. But it was not vulgar or part of coarse jokes. First, remember that he was completely holy and knew the religious leaders’ thoughts and motives. As we can boast neither, we should probably hesitate greatly before modeling this specific pattern of speech.
But even when Jesus spoke kindly, it was not always received well. Consider “The Rich, Young Ruler:”
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.Mark 10:17-22 ESV (Note: Corresponding accounts are found in Matthew 19:16-26 and Luke 18:18-27)
A man came to ask Jesus “What must I do to have eternal life?” There is no indication he was less than sincere. He came running; this question is urgent and important to him. He kneels, showing a measure of humility and respect, and addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher” indicating the has followed Jesus’s teaching and is willing to submit to the question’s answer.
Harsh Lessons from a Good Teacher.
The man’s words reveal his understanding, or may I should say misunderstanding, of who Jesus is. By using the word good, he reveals what he values in Jesus and in himself. It foreshadows the remainder of their interaction. Sure Jesus kept the whole law; he was sinless after all. Calling him good falls short of the mark. He was more than good; he was God. The man calling Jesus good holds a similar good view of himself – a dangerous viewpoint.
Jesus’s response seems a little rude at first. You are almost taken aback to reread and see if we missed some clue that the asker was not in fact sincere. Jesus asks and answers his own question. The answer actually points to Jesus’ own divine nature: “No one is good except God.” After this declaration of his own sinlessness, his questions point to the man’s sinfulness.
Jesus knows the man’s heart and draws his attention to the law. Much like evangelism today, the law exists, not to save us, but to point us to our need of the Savior. This style of questioning is replicated by modern street-evangelist Ray Comfort.
Here, the problem is that the man is blind to his own sin. He tells Jesus he has kept the law since he was young. We know that this cannot be so. James 2:10 tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Jesus also does not hold us only to the letter of the law, but the spirit also (See Matthew 5: 20-30). Even if the man was pure in his outward fulfillment of the law (questionable), we can be fairly sure he had not inwardly kept them.
At this point, Jesus could have called out all of the man’s sins. As God, he knew them. Instead, he looked on the man with love. He knew every single wrong thing the man had ever done and yet he loved him. Even knowing the pride radiating from the man at that moment, Jesus loved him.
But love does not mean Jesus will leave us to be happy. Love means he will show us our sin.
“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
The man came to Jesus to count the cost of discipleship and found that it was too high. While he may have followed the tangible letter of the law, he missed the mark on the first and most important commandment: You shall have no other God’s before me. He could not put Jesus first. If Jesus is not first in your life, he is not anywhere in your life. “Jesus must be everything or nothing” (John Piper).
And the man walked away from Jesus’ love.
The word Christian comes from the Greek word meaning “little Christ.” It was originally a dismissive title given to Christ-followers by the religious leaders, but it is a pretty tidy summation of our role as believers: to emulate Christ. Now, this must be tempered by the fact that we are not all-knowing or sinless. Christians will, however, like Christ, be offensive by speaking the truth or sometimes just existing. We are not called to champion every cause or be political or social media warriors. We are called to lovingly seek to show others their need for Christ and his love for them.
Sometimes they will walk away,
But sometimes they won’t — and both are worth the battle.
Declare your side.