Working in a Christian retail environment draws in a large variety of clientele. Most are Christians looking for a good book or gift. Others are not and are searching. Then there are those who are Christians hoping to find something to give to a non-Christian friend. This is great, but too often I hear this;
“They don’t believe in Christ so I need to be subtle. I don’t want to offend them and scare them away from God. So do you have something with a positive message that isn’t TOO Christian?”
Now before I rant, I understand this truth. “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a ESV)
I am in no way telling anybody to be a rabid, Bible-thumping screamer on the corner of Main Street calling down fire from heaven on those who will not listen. This is an honest, and passionate, reminder to what Christ has called us to. We are not to be people-pleasers, tickling their ears with uplifting, positive messages. We are preachers of truth. And if we’re to be effective, we must understand three facts.
1) The Gospel is offensive.
To have the goal of evangelizing, but not offending, is a dead end road. For one to fully grasp and understand the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it takes being offended. Nobody wants to hear or admit that they are the bad guy. In the story of the Gospel, Jesus is the hero, the blessed martyr for his people. We are the enemy. Having disobeyed his righteous commands, we separated ourselves from all that is good. We corrupted the world by our selfishness and greed. We brought about sin. Death reigned because of us. Our inability to approach the throne of grace is due to our pride.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
“As it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one; No one understands; No one seeks for God; all have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)
This truth is never good news. But it must clearly be understood to be able to repent. To show somebody the way to salvation is not just preaching the good news about grace and mercy, Jesus dying in our place, and rising again. It takes careful teaching about why we are dying. And that is hard to chew on.
2) Obeying Christ is priority over friendships.
Christ explained clearly what it took to be his disciple. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to live. This verse especially lays out the intensity of devotion with which a Christian must serve the Lord.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 ESV)
Hate doesn’t mean loathing, an intense dislike for. Instead it means, ‘of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another.’ (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)
Our devotion and passion for Jesus Christ and the instructions he’s given us, supersedes any other relation or plan that we may have. The Bible strongly commands us to love one another, but love for anybody or anything else fades away in comparison to our love for God and his Word. We have been commanded to make disciples of every nation. To be a disciple means sharing Christ with those around us at the risk of losing friendships and family.
Charles Swindoll said, “More than once Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks.”
I’m not saying its easy. But its mandatory to fulfill your responsibilities. Remember the last fact.
3) The ultimate show of love is sharing the Gospel
The Christian life is a constant paradox. To love a friend, you must risk the friendship. To freely enjoy the friendship without taking chances is not loving the friend at all. Every person’s greatest need is Jesus. If we refuse to talk about him because we worry about offending the other person, it tells much about us. We fear man more than God. We care more about our popularity and status than we do of the Lord. We love ourselves more than Jesus Christ.
To love a friend is to point to the one who is love. Jesus laid down his life so we could call him friend. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to be a friend to others?
The church has been commanded to be silent under the banner of political correctness. To offend somebody can be considered a hate crime. And what’s worse, we concede.
No more! At the risk of losing friends, popularity, and even our lives, if that’s what it takes, we need to speak up again. We must remove the tape that has covered our lips for far too long. Dust off your soapbox. And in love and gentleness, PREACH THE GOSPEL!
It’s okay to offend. If they repent, it’s all worth it. If they walk away from you, it’s all worth it. Love them as Christ loved you. Serve them as Christ served you. But do them a favor, and talk about Jesus.
It’s time to become loud again. It’s time to offend them with truth. It’s time to stop rolling over under the screams of atheistic and agnostic groups. It’s time obey.