Back in 1973 an important book by David Augsburger appeared entitled Caring Enough to Confront. It was a powerful reminder to believers that we have an obligation to confront one another in order to become all we are meant to be in Christ.
Real love, Augsburger argued, will not sit by and allow relationships to go off the rails. If you really love your brother, if you really care about him, you will challenge him when necessary. It is a clear sign of a lack of love, and indifference, if we do not confront one another in love.
I wish to take this one step further. If I had the time, I would write an entire book on this, and I would have this as my title: Caring Enough to Offend. I would extend my discussion not just to fellow believers, but to those who do not yet know Christ as well.
You see, the same principle applies to the lost as it does to the saved. To love the unbeliever means loving him enough to confront him. If a non-Christian friend is heading to a lost eternity, the most loving thing you can do is talk to him about this, and explain to him the truth of the gospel. And guess what? He may well find that to be offensive.
Indeed, it happens all the time. Non-believers are always taking offence at what Christians say. Now at this point let me be quite careful and clear: I of course am not suggesting that we should deliberately be offensive. We are to be loving, gracious and respectful as we share the good news with others.
But even if we are as winsome and courteous as possible, people are still going to get offended. The Bible makes this absolutely clear. Indeed, consider the most loving, the most kind, and the most considerate person on earth: Jesus Christ.
The truth is, people were offended by him all the time. They took offence at what he said, they took offence at what he did, they took offence at his claims about himself, they took offence at his exclusive message, and so on. Indeed, we read so often in the gospels about how his words divided people: some readily embraced him and his teachings while others strongly rejected both.
Paul of course could speak about the offence of the gospel and the offence of the cross. The Christian message is inherently offensive to the non-believer. So too is biblical morality. Simply seeking to live in the light of God’s requirements will get other people angry.
Non-believers (and sadly, some believers), will be offended when we suggest that there are moral absolutes which we are all accountable to. They will take offence when we suggest that not every lifestyle and behaviour is right, proper or acceptable. Those living in sin will be offended by our righteous living.
Jesus made this crystal clear in John 3:19-20 when he said this: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Thus we can expect to cause offence, simply by being Christians and by sharing the gospel of Christ. But genuine Christians will not let this deter them. They will love and care enough for their lost friends to be willing to tell them the gospel, even if it offends them.
If we really love others, we will warn them of their destructive behaviours and lifestyles. Indeed, we must care enough about them to confront them. An obvious area that comes to mind in this regard is the contentious issue of homosexuality.
Sadly far too many Christians have fallen for the deception that the most loving thing we can do is just leave homosexuals alone and let them pursue their harmful lifestyle. We have even allowed ourselves to be conned into thinking that perhaps their homosexuality is somehow God’s gift to them.
Instead of loving them enough to challenge them about their dead-end and sinful lifestyle, we tend to make excuses for them. But whenever we seek to justify sin and make excuses for the sinner, we surely do not love them. Jesus never played games with sinners, and neither should we.
Let me finish this piece with a wonderful testimony I recently read by a former homosexual. He entitled his story, “Thank You For Offending Me”. What a great title! He speaks of friends and family members who loved him enough to confront him and tell him the truth. He says this:
“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.”
Just as this man needed to be “offended” by the truth before he could be set free, so too do so many others. Yet how many believers are just too fearful of confrontation, and cringe at any form of controversy? They just want to live a quiet and peaceful life and not rock any boats, regardless of how many of those boats may be carrying large numbers of people bound in chains heading for a lost eternity.
Failure to speak out – whether due to fear, or political correctness, or not wanting to cause offence, or wanting to appear ‘tolerant’ – can often be the most unloving and un-Christlike thing we can do. We are told in Scripture to speak the truth in love. If you love someone, you will tell them the truth of where they are at, and not leave them unchallenged as they destroy themselves and others. What sort of love is that to remain silent in these sorts of situations?
It is clearly time that we love and care about others enough to be willing to offend, if need be.
The powerful and moving testimony of Mike Goeke can be found in the excellent book edited by Lisa Nolland, Chris Sugden and Sarah Finch: God, Gays and the Church (The Latimer Trust, 2008). It can also be found at this site: