The world in which we live today is full of people who are easily offended. From “safe spaces” at universities to unconstitutional attempts to tear down free speech because of what is being said, the world wants us to know something: They’re offended.
I get why they’re offended because I know the message we preach—the gospel of Christ—is inherently offensive. People who don’t believe it will take issue with its message. Part of the problem, of course, is that nowadays people think if we disagree with you then we hate you or are attacking you. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. But like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” To those who don’t follow Christ, the message of the gospel is absolutely stupid.
John MacArthur once said:
If the truth offends, then let it offend. People have been living their whole lives in offense to God; let them be offended for a while.
When we evangelize, the last thing we should worry about is having the gospel offend people. Because of man’s inherent nature and what the gospel message implies, people will get offended. Let them be offended. Of course, we don’t want them to be offended, but we need not be surprised when they do get offended.
However, that is not the point of this piece. My point here is that sometimes—unfortunately, a lot of the time—instead of letting the gospel offend, we ourselves do the offending by how we speak and interact with others.
When You’re Just Being a Jerk
We must stand behind the fact that the gospel will offend. We must not cower in fear of being offensive. However, sometimes we fall into the trap of being offensive ourselves. That is, we sometimes add to the offensiveness when we act like jerks in the process.
Trip Lee echoes this sentiment:
So the gospel itself is already offensive enough. We don’t need to add offense to it by being jerks about everything. We don’t need to add offense to it by being very condemning and self-righteous. We don’t need to add offense to it by being incapable of actually loving and being in relationship with people. We really want to show people the compassion of Jesus even as we say very hard things.
One of the many reasons we fall into this trap is when we take our eyes off of who we used to be. We used to be the other person. We were the one getting offended by being told that we were dead in sin and couldn’t save ourselves (Eph. 2:1). That was once us.
When we lose sight of our past, we lack empathy. We aren’t able to say, “I know what it must feel like to hear this. I was once where you are.” We lose any sense of compassion and become too focused on truth, and in the process, lose love. We’ve all heard it and said it: We need to speak the truth in love.
A Balanced Witness
As Christians, we have the responsibility in our witness to speak the truth about Jesus. We must speak this truth, however, in love. If you have one without the other, you won’t be an effective witness; even worse, you might be a bad witness.