CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Loving Enough To Offend

Dec 30, 2011

It has almost become a truism nowadays that whatever the secular world thinks is really neat is probably the opposite to what biblical Christianity is all about. If the world is really into something, it is likely the Christian faith should have nothing to do with it.

As C.S. Lewis once put it: “I have some definite views about the de-Christianizing of the church. I believe that there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say, ‘Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.’ The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world.”

Many of the great believers have taken such a view. To be right with God most often means to be wrong with men. To seek to please God will often result in men being offended. Jesus and the disciples knew all about the offence of the gospel, and it is time we started knowing about it as well.

Today the world is above all else immersed in Political Correctness, and a new eleventh commandment has appeared: ‘Thou shalt not offend’. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t offend anyone. Be as placid, apathetic, innocuous and bland as you can be. Just make sure you don’t get anyone upset.

Such an attitude is supposed to represent tolerance, acceptance and openness. But all it really does is show us that we are a bunch of spineless wonders who would never rock the boat for any reason. As GK Chesterton rightly said, “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”

But this of course has nothing to do with biblical love. Love does not mean allowing anything to happen and not speaking out. Real love is not about winking at evil, overlooking sin, and countenancing that which displeases God. Biblical love is all about speaking the truth, even if it causes offence.

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John Piper has written some very wise words about these matters. In his 2006 volume, What Jesus Demands from the World, he lists 50 things that Jesus has commanded – things which we so very often downplay, overlook or simply ignore. One of these is the need to speak the truth to others, even if it hurts and offends.

Says Piper, “If a person can claim to have been hurt by what you say, it is assumed by many that you did not act in love. In other words, love is not defined by the quality of the act and its motives, but by the subjective response of others. In this way of relating, the wounded one has absolute authority. If he says you hurt him, then you cannot have acted lovingly. You are guilty. Jesus will not allow this way of relating to go unchallenged.

“Love is not defined by the response of the loved…. This truth is shown by the way Jesus lived his life. He loved in a way that was often not felt as love. No one I have ever known in person or in history was as blunt as Jesus in the way he dealt with people. Evidently his love was so authentic it needed few cushions. It is owing to my living with the Jesus of the Gospels for fifty years that makes me so aware of how emotionally fragile and brittle we are today. If Jesus were to speak to us the way he typically spoke in his own day, we would be continually offended and hurt. This is true of the way he spoke to his disciples and the way he spoke to his adversaries…The point of this is that the genuineness of an act of love is not determined by the subjective feelings of the one being loved.”

Quite right John Piper. When we read the New Testament, we see time and time again Jesus and his followers offending people, angering people, and alienating people, simply by speaking the truth. But Jesus and his disciples did not worry about everyone going off on a pity party. They were too worried about speaking truth.

In other words, they loved people enough to offend, when necessary. They did not go out of their way to offend people, but they never for a moment held back from speaking truth out of fear that someone might take offence or throw a hissy fit.

It is absolutely vital in this age of false tolerance, weak-kneed indifference, and PC pandemonium, that we learn to speak truth, even if it costs us a few votes or a few friends. This is so very vital, because the wellbeing of others is at stake – both temporal and eternal.

Let me illustrate this with one very powerful story which I have shared before. It concerns a homosexual who was offended big time by Christians telling him the truth. But in the end he was so very grateful that Christians loved him enough and cared about him enough to persist in telling him the truth. Here in part is his story:

“Let me just say a hearty ‘THANK YOU’ to my wife, and my parents and family, and my friends, who cared enough about me to offend me! I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider the ramifications in my life had the people in my world bought into the lie that to love me was to affirm my homosexuality. When I left my wife to pursue homosexuality, she boldly told me that she knew God could work in me and in our marriage and that she would not pursue divorce. She protected her interests but always professed her love for me and her desire to work through this together.

“My parents (and other family members) told me that what I was doing was wrong. They found Exodus, got materials, and tried to get me to talk to a counselor. They also called frequently to check on me, sent me money when I needed it, came to see me on my birthday, and flew me home for holidays. My friends drove hours to talk to me about what I was doing, and told me what they believed. They flew from other towns to take me to dinner and tried to convince me to get help and to turn from what I was doing. They also sent me cards and letters full of love and affirmation of our friendship.

“And each of them offended me. Each of them made me angry. I viewed them as bigoted, and unenlightened, and ignorant, and prejudiced, and hateful. If they truly loved me, I told them, they would accept my homosexuality and affirm me in the lifestyle I was living. I ignored their calls and I viewed them with skepticism. I did my best to sever my relationships with those who were offending me. But they would not let me go. They did not coddle me, but they refused to give up on me.”

His thoughts about Jesus are quite interesting as well. Referring to the book by Jeff Konrad, another former homosexual, You Don’t Have to be Gay, he says, “that book showed me more than the sentimental, saccharine love of Jesus that gay theology had sold me. It showed me the powerful love of the risen Savior.”

He concludes with these moving words, “Today my marriage is restored and has grown beyond my imagination. I have three beautiful children and am living out the call on my life to vocational ministry. Healing has happened in my family relationships, and I am closer to that cadre of friends than ever before. As I listen to people debate the ‘gay’ issue and talk of affirmation and inclusivity of homosexuality, I wonder where I would be today had Stephanie accepted my claim that I had always been gay and would always be gay and pursued divorce like I wanted her to do. I wonder where I would be if my parents had joined PFLAG [Parent and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] and supported me in my quest to live homosexually.

“I wonder where I would be if my friends had encouraged me to divorce Stephanie and had rallied around me in my homosexuality. I wonder where I would be if my pastors and spiritual shepherds had encouraged me to accept the very thing I needed to lay before the cross of Christ. I shudder at the thought. I know it must have killed them to think of losing me, but they loved me enough to take that risk. THANK YOU, dear friends, for your offense to me. At the time, the Truth you shared was the aroma of death to me (II Cor. 2:15) but today it is the sweet fragrance of LIFE.”

Real love means speaking real truth into the lives of real people with real bondages and dead-end lifestyles. While we of course must always be gracious, tactful and considerate, we must never let the spirit of the age browbeat us into silence. Truth is far too important, and people desperately need to hear it. Woe to us if we do not love others enough to be willing to offend them.

www.oneby1.org/testimony-offended.cfm

[1537 words]

18 Responses to Loving Enough To Offend

  • Well said Bill. What an inspirational piece.
    Alan Williams, UK

  • Thanks, Bill.

    I need these kinds of articles to remind me of how often I am a coward when I am confronted by sin in others.

    John Angelico

  • Thanks John

    Of course it cuts both ways: we need to be equally loving with ourselves. That is, we need also to be harsh on ourselves, and be willing to expose our own lives to the truth as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Happy New Year, Bill. Your article reminds us of our main purpose in life as Christians.

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

    Monica Craver

  • Thanks Bill for another perceptive and truth revealing article.

    Yes, we must continue to “speak the truth in love” – both are necessary. To speak truth without love is mere Pharisaism.
    To speak love without truth is to condone sin or to separate what God joins together.
    As in 2011, so it must be for tthe New Year:
    “He/she who is righteous by faith shall live!

    Thanks for the thought and work you put into all your posts on this blog, and a Happy New Year.

    Graham Wood

  • I suppose this is part of what Jesus meant when He said, “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.”

    Great piece Bill, it’s definitely a big issue in our society. Not only could we Christians be more truthful in speaking the truth with love, but there are a rash of laws being enacted in various places around the world that seem to assume that people have a right not to be offended. The various vilification laws are just the type.

    Reinhard Dekter

  • My reaction was “What a woman.” She obviously loved him not as herself but more than herself.
    I guess we are often more afraid of being hurt than of hurting the other even when we use that as an excuse. Sometimes God works anyhow but I know I need a dose of courage regularly.
    Katherine Fishley

  • This is one counter to the heretics of the Westbro Baptist Church who have mangled, misinterpreted the Gospel to make it hateful, when what this young man’s friends did was to live it.
    Wayne Pelling

  • Thanks Bill for calling a spade a spade. And for consistently exposing the lies of the enemy.
    Beena Saju

  • Actually, the phrase “I’m offended by that!” is easily countered with some straightforward logic. As with issues such as homosexuality and abortion, one can point out that those in opposition to these things were actually the first ones offended and our response (provided it is in keeping with speaking truth in love as modelled by Jesus) actually comes out of that offence. Pro-life protests are a good example of this.

    I’m not sure what could be more degrading and dehumanising than the dilution of the dignity of male and female sexuality, or the industrialised destruction of the innocent unborn.* Or what could be more ridiculous than the claim that a trace gas that occurs normally in nature and plants need to grow, is somehow now classified as ‘pollution’ and we need to tax prosperity away from generations to come to reduce it to some mythical ‘normal’ level and keep temperatures slightly cooler by an unmeasurable fraction of a degree? There are plenty of other subjects from the moonbat universe to choose from.

    The key thing is to ask the pc offended party to explain why their offence is worth so much more than yours. Ultimately you must point out to them that the purpose of their ‘offence’ is nothing to do with the subject at all, but to justify hatred of you, even sanctimony! – as you attempt to hold up that which is Christian (ie. good), and they promote evil. The importance of this cannot be overstated lest they leave the conversation thinking they hold the moral high ground. Being ‘offended’ and expecting you to be cowed by this is just a rationale so that they can feel good for despising you. Ironically, they will be convinced that they are fighting ‘hate’ the very moment they are promoting it.

    If offence really was the issue, why do the pc crowd consistently ignore the offence of one section of society and no others? No, this is about the suppression of unpopular ideas, reasonable debate and the re-creation of ‘untermenschen’ that society is expected to routinely loathe. Opposing ‘hate speech’ is in reality opposing free speech, especially truth. I have no doubt the father of lies is having fun with people as they stumble about in darkness unaware of their glaring double standards. May the God of light and love burst in.

    * – (excuse me for the alliteration!)

    Mark Rabich

  • Greetings and great start to the year Bill.
    Could be a foundation for your articles this year.
    Make us mad or make us glad, but don’t leave us where we are.
    Rob Withall

  • Mark Rabich. That was an excellent post, and I liked your own “straightforward logic” of exposing the rank hypocrisy of the easily “offended” ones.
    I’m sure you are right – the PC brigade, aided and abetted by governments hate our expression of opinions and views that do not correlate to their imposed criteria of what is or is not acceptable to ‘society’ as they perceive it, or to them. Especially a distinctively Christian world view.
    I also believe that that such PC engenders the strange and increasingly common phenomena of the so called “hate crime” – i.e. the odd conjunction of hate with “crime”, as if to hate per se constituted a crime in some way.
    I guess that one lesson for Christians is that we, like God, should most definitely hate evil. It is therefore right to hate – not people, but evil actions, movements, and all expressions of anti-Christ.
    Thus the Psalmist: “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10), which in turn, I think, reflects something of God’s holiness which is in permanent conflict with evil.
    Graham Wood

  • Bill. I posted this article on the ‘Anglican Mainstream website (with acknowledgment of course) and they have published it I’m glad to say!
    Graham Wood

  • Proverbs 27:5-6 (NIV)
    5 Better is open rebuke
    than hidden love.

    6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
    but an enemy multiplies kisses.

    In other words: avoiding the truth (whether by silence or by appeasement) is the lie of an enemy rather than the love of a friend.

    Peter Newland

  • How I needed to be reminded of how wise and perfect our God is. Thanks for the article Bill, when people put scripture into action, it just works doesn`t it.
    John Archer

  • Many thanks John.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you so much Bill for making this truth so plain.
    Psa 85:10 Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.
    Love and holiness!
    Both essential!
    Both indispensable!
    Both together bring balance.
    How desperately the Church needs this message in the midst of an increasingly wicked and adulterous generation.
    Thanks Bill for being a prophetic voice and standing on the front lines of the battle.

  • Excellent, inspiring, honest account of one man’s painful but ultimately, with the help of God and good friends and family, successful journey. Let us all strive for the courage to speak truth, in love.

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