We don’t like to hear the truth.
Today, truth is under fire. Today everyone gets to be right – and no one wants to be wrong.
But here is a fundamental problem: we can’t all be right. In order for truth to be truth, it must be objective. It must come from something outside of individual preference, or truth is determined simply by the feelings of every man. We don’t like to feel guilty. We don’t like to think we’ve missed the mark.
But where there is no wrong, there can be no right.
As comforting as it might be to think we can each determine truth for ourselves, the very nature of truth denies us that right. And if truth comes from something outside of man, man then answers to that standard. Man answers to a higher power.
That offends us.
Christians believe that God made man with a purpose. We believe that God gives us a standard of right and wrong, and that standard guides us into social justice and brotherly kindness. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a truth to stake our lives on – but because this gospel is exclusive, it offends.
Christianity will offend. We can expect it. Jesus said He was, and is, the “way, the truth, and the life” and that no one can come to God apart from Him (John 14:6). In this single statement Jesus denied the claim that all faiths are equal. In this statement, He made the dangerous claim that choosing a path apart from Him is not enough.
If we are Christians, this is what we believe. We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and this fact alone will make us offensive in a culture of moral relativity. We will be considered unloving and insensitive. We will be criminals in the courtroom of false equality, where everyone is the same, everyone is right, and truth is what each person believes it to be.
But our greatest command from God is not to refrain from offending others. Our two greatest commandments are to love God with our will, our thoughts, our emotions, and our very being, and to love others as much as we love ourselves.
But how can we love others if our very faith offends them?
This comes down to the definition of love. Love is not blind acceptance.
Love always chooses the best for the other: and in order to love, there must be a “best” to choose.
Thus, true love cannot exist apart from an ultimate truth. Then, knowing what the very best is for the person before it, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”, and love never gives up (1 Cor. 13).
It is not unloving to stand on the truth of the gospel. It is the most loving thing we can do. But love based on God’s truth will be unrecognizable to those who determine their own morality. They will not see it as love; they will take offense.
In that moment we must remember that our greatest commandment was not to avoid offending people. Our greatest command was to choose Christ and to choose love, even when love hurts. This does not give us license to use rude, angry, and condescending words to communicate the gospel. It gives us the mandate to pour ourselves out for the very people who hate us – the same way Jesus did for all mankind.
The gospel itself is not the only thing that will offend our culture; our lives will. The holy life sends an arrow of conviction into the heart of human nature, piercing to the division of soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). When we choose God’s standards for sex, marriage, parenting, finances – it will make people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable.
Christianity offends me every day.
It wounds my pride. It exposes my selfishness. In light of the life I am called to live I fall so very short. Why would I embrace this faith that makes me uncomfortable at times? A faith that challenges the very mettle of my soul?
I choose it because it is only in Christ that, should I fail the absolute standard, grace steps in to save.
No other faith provides this security.
Every other faith requires man to reach God by living a “good” life. But none of us can achieve true goodness. And staking eternity on “I hope I’m good enough” is the most dangerous of risks. True hope can only come when we know what “goodness” is and we also know we can achieve it in our imperfect world.
This is where Christ comes in.
We talk a lot about love and grace, but without an ultimate standard of truth, grace is useless and void. There must be law for grace to exist. Only in Christianity does God Himself provide both the standard of goodness and the grace to achieve it. Only in Christianity can what seems exclusive become inclusive by the hand of God Himself.
Yes, the God of the Bible has moral standards. But He made the way for us to meet them.
Where Christ offends me, He also heals me. Where He challenges me, He also strengthens me. Where He calls me higher, He leads me up that path. And it is this grace that makes Christianity distinct.
If we believe that Christ is indeed the only way to God we will offend the world, but at the end of time we will not stand before a jury of our peers but before the judgment of an Almighty God.
At that judgment the standard of truth we lived by in this world will be measured against our lives. I dare not use another measure than the one God will use, and I love this world enough to tell them that truth.
We must speak the truth with kindness, but we cannot allow false kindness to water down the truth. It is not kind to lie to the lost.
Christianity will always offend. But we should more concerned with offending the gospel than with offending the world. Jesus was offensive even as He poured out love and kindness. He was offensive because He claimed to be the Way. He claimed to be the only Truth. And He claimed that He – the Creator of Life – really did have the best plan for life itself. Jesus was so offensive to His culture, they killed Him. Ours is a small price to pay in light of that sacrifice.
The gospel needs no caveat. It needs us to release the fear of offense and embrace the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We fear the gospel because we fear being unloving, but the gospel is the story of love Itself. It is a story of a love so great everything was given so a few could be gained.
If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.