Taking Offense
Taking Offense

Were you offended today?

We live in a society where taking offense is now the norm. And the catalog of culprits multiplies by the minute, with politics and religion topping the list.

Sadly, it seems our culture is especially offended by the claims of Christianity, more so than any other belief system. I used to think it was because of the exclusive salvation claims Christians make. But that’s not the case, since Muslims make similar claims.

Perhaps it’s because the enemy of our souls knows Jesus truly is the only way to the Father, and has blinded the eyes and stopped up the ears of those who need to know it. The exclusive claims of other beliefs continue to be proclaimed without obstacles because the enemy knows they don’t matter.

So what’s a Christian to do when others are offended by our faith in Jesus Christ? I recently read an article in which the author proudly proclaimed her refusal to apologize for the gospel and for her faith in Christ.

I agree with the apostle Paul who wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NIV).

Still, what if we do need to apologize, but not for the truth of the gospel message? Not for our faith in Christ. And not for the transforming power of God’s salvation by the Holy Spirit.

Content vs. Delivery

What if we need to apologize for the way we communicate that message?

We’ve all seen and heard derogatory comments by self-described Christians addressed to abortionists, homosexuals, and others who commit sins different from our own. Comments such as:

  • Judgment will come!
  • God will punish you for this!
  • You’ll burn in hell for eternity!

If we close our eyes, we can almost picture the speaker proclaiming the words with a fist raised high in anticipated victory over the forces of evil.

And the world continues to close its ears, shut its eyes, and turn its back on the gospel message.

But what if we said those words with a broken heart? If we spoke them from a place of tenderness for the eternal destiny of others created in the image of God? And what if we talked about hell with tears streaming down our face—grief stricken over the judgment to come?

Finally, what if the cry of our heart and our mouth is, “I love you and I don’t want you to experience that terrible judgment.”

What if we would say, “I was right there with you.” What if we would identify with the apostle Paul who said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (I Timothy 1:15 NIV). Not someone else. Me. Us.

But God. But God intervened. He saved me from my sin. He saved me from myself. And He saved me—us—for Himself. Not because we’re better than other sinners, but because of His lavish grace.

So what if we would apologize for our arrogance and self-righteousness? What might happen? We might still be mocked and denigrated, but that happens anyway.

Or…

Maybe, just maybe, the other person might walk away having experienced real love from an unexpected source. The kind of love the Holy Spirit can use to speak to their heart and mind long after the conversation ends.

Speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Not arrogantly. Not rejoicing that “they’ll get theirs.” But with a tender heart and tears in our eyes.

Then if anyone is offended, it will be because of the gospel, not because of how we delivered the message.


20 responses to “Taking Offense”

  1. Robin Watkins says:

    Lord give me the faith and Love to speak your truth In Love!

  2. Ava Pennington says:

    Me, too, Robin!

  3. I was just prepping a group of students for next year’s class the other day. I told them that we would work on developing tone and voice next year–because sometimes, how you say something matters more than what you say.

    And of course, what we say matters–and it must always be truth. But with the wrong delivery, truth gets blotted out.

    Great post, great message.

  4. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Nancy.

  5. Diana Owens says:

    Ava
    I have told that to a lot of worker and people. You could get anything done by your tone of voice and how it is said.
    Love you.
    Its Only God

    Diana Owens

  6. Ava Pennington says:

    So true, Diana.

  7. Ava, Do you think there are ever times for a more forceful tone? I think of Jesus calling the Pharisees a “Brood of Vipers,” evil, and serpents and turning the money tables over. I do not preach on the streets so my ministry is usually in calm tones but sometimes those guys are faced with such evil that it might require more force. Psalm 15:1 makes your case but I can’t help but think there are times for more aggressive speech.

  8. Ava Pennington says:

    Hi, Beth – Interestingly enough, the times Jesus was most forceful was not with pagan unbelievers, but rather with the religious establishment of his day – for example, as you noted, the Pharisees. I can’t recall Him being as forceful with others.

  9. karentfriday says:

    Beautiful way to look at our faith, Ava. I so agree. Sometimes our delivery is as important as our message. And Jesus really modeled this for us. He was firm when He needed to be firm and bold when He need to be bold. But, not one time in Jesus ministry did He compromise truth in order to love people. Not one time. He knew how to always convey the truth without comprise, especially with the religious or those who opposed Him. May we remember truth AND love win.

  10. Ava Pennington says:

    Yes, Karen – Ephesians 4:15!

  11. Yes, Ava. It’s not really the gospel message if it’s delivered in arrogance or self-righteousness. The gospel needs to be packaged in love. I like the word you used: “tenderness.” There’s not a whole lot of tenderness out there. Let it come from us.

  12. Ava, thank you for the reminder of how important it is to view others through a filter of God’s love, and to share His truth and His gospel with a heart of love, of brokenness. Great thoughts!

  13. Jessica Brodie says:

    Great points! You are right: we should always speak the truth in love. With love, all is well.

  14. Ava – I think the Pharisees were pagan unbelievers. They had knowledge of God but made their own laws and hated Christ. They led people astray as do the abortionists and Muslims of today. I know I am in the minority on this view but it seems that if we want to be like Christ, we can’t assume things will always be gentle.

  15. I love this post, Ava! The gospel will offend those in sin, but it also frees one from it. But the offense as you have said so well should not come from our wrong delivery but instead with an urgency of coming to Jesus. God’s grace woos the one in sin toward Himself, never with a vengeful motive, one of love and mercy. We must replicate that same spirit when helping others caught in sin. Thank you for lovingly and boldly speaking the truth!

  16. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Marcie.

  17. Powerful convicting blog. Thank you for sharing!

  18. A-men Sister great Post!!

  19. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Candice and Stephen.

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