It's OK, People SHOULD Be Offended by the Cross

God’s Offensive Plan

And it’s not that it just turned out this way, but God planned it. He designed the offense. Seven hundred years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah called it—he will be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Isaiah 8:14).

Jesus himself, in John 6, challenges his disciples with the offense. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

The offense is not mainly his mention of eating flesh and drinking blood, but the accusation of deep depravity and spiritual inability. As the crowds retreat at his forthrightness, Jesus asks his disciples, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:61). More unnerving than taking his plainly figurative language in a literal sense is hearing that you are powerless and lifeless where it matters most. This is as offensive as it gets.

Remember the Right Offense

Typically, we get antsy about speaking the gospel to someone who doesn’t already believe. Some of our fear, of course, is unwarranted. But some of it is for good reason. In communicating the gospel, one of the essential things we must at least imply, if not make explicit, is the most offensive truth possible: You are powerless precisely where it matters most. You are dead to what truly is life.

Don’t take it too far. We don’t gloat in giving offense. We labor to remove every possible barrier. May the offense not be our personality or carelessness or quirkiness or arrogance. Like Paul, let’s “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12).

But this one offense—the offense of the cross—we cannot remove. We dare not.  

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.