Have you ever made something harder than it needs to be?? This Sunday evening I was reminded how much doing this can hurt. Danielle and I had just gotten home from our church Christmas Banquet and were busy and focused on putting the boys to bed. It’s normal for us to each take a child and put them to bed. I usually end up with Noah and on this evening it was no different. Noah and I had been in his room putting his PJ’s on when he decided he needed to make a comfy bed for a new toy he had gotten from Grandma and Grandpa. He looked through all of his “stuffies” (stuffed animal’s and toys) and decided that his big soft Lightening McQueen would be his best option. So he fluffed McQueen up, placed him on his dresser and proceeded to put his toy to bed. “Sshhhh Dad, he’s sleeping”. I was now somehow completely into this idea. His toy was comfortable and actually sleeping as far as I was concerned. I find it easy to slip into the creative views of a child. So we quietly finished putting on his pajama’s and went to the bathroom for the usual pee, brush and drink routine. While Noah was in the bathroom I noticed my baby boy Jude running down the hallway into Noah’s room. I basically panicked as I didn’t want him to wake up the toy, I mean we had just gotten him to sleep and you know how hard it is to get them back to sleep once they’ve woken up, so I chased after Jude (Danielle was being delinquent as usual :)) saying “NO!!” I didn’t get there in time; Jude was already pulling McQueen off the dresser. I reached down as quickly as I could to get McQueen and the toy before we woke it up and as I quickly stood up straight I heard a loud bang. It took me a moment to figure out what the bang was as I was also seeing stars. I eventually, though not completely, got my wits about me and realized the bang was my head hitting a solid metal edged shelf that has been screwed into the studs. I reached up to the top of my head and blood was the only thing I felt. Jude was in shock, I was concussed and Noah was peeing. My head now has a deep gash (scabbed over now) and a dent in it. I still have headaches and I really don’t remember the first 20 minutes after the initial impact. Needless to say I made the event harder than it needed to be. Who cares if the pillow hit the floor and the toy woke up? I could have as easily just followed Jude slowly and re-arranged the pillow and toy and Noah would have been none-the-wiser. I choose though to do it the hard way and I paid the price.
Perspective is also really key to life. Because, though I thought I went about it the hard way, Noah might have thought that was a completely normal response to such a pressing issue. Obviously as he matures he would have, I hope, come to the same conclusion as me. Life does not need to be done the hard way. Perspective can really change ones view. I had a conversation with someone about passivism. In it the person brought up murder which then turned to soldiers and war. After a while this person said, well killing is different than murder. My gut reaction was this. From whose perspective? Does the widow of the fallen solder believe there was a difference between the killing of her spouse and the murder of her spouse? Or from her perspective is it the same thing?
I say all of this to warm up to the idea of the offense of the Gospel. A long time family friend of mine posted a comment on my last blog that included the verses Roman 13:8-10. Verse 10 is the crux of the passage, “love is the fulfilment of the law”. Have we been making this thing we call Christianity harder than it needs to be if “Love is the fulfilment of ” it? If you haven’t read my previous post I would recommend it as it really delves into the concept of Love. But I think it’s necessary now, at least for my thought process to touch on the supposed offence of the gospel.
I have, without intention become a bit of a “red letter” Christian. I am more concerned at this point in my life with the words and life of Jesus than anything else. I guess if I was to be honest, I suppose the Gospels are really all one needs to learn what it is to be a follower of Christ and adopt it’s principles in their lifestyle. Christ did intriguing things. and told intriguing stories that explained the relationship between God and His creation. One of my favourites is found in Luke 15. The Lost Son is a beautiful story about God’s love for His kids. It’s the Gospel story.
I guess before I go into whether or not I believe the Gospel is an offense/offensive I should give you at least my perspective of what I believe the Gospel to be. Simply put it’s; Undeserved and unearnable Love that God has for us shown in the gracious and merciful act of sending His Son to die as a sacrifice for our sin’s allowing us eternal life. (I would go one stage deeper that it is this love that we are now called to do for others (John 13), but you can read my last post if you want to go there.)
So if the Gospel of Christ is love what’s so offensive about it? I was lying in bed prepping for my ordination service (prepping means thinking and praying about it in this context) and the thought about the Gospel being offensive popped in my head. I found myself thinking that if the Gospel is Love, then it’s not offensive. So I started thinking about it and asking people about it. I looked at Christ’s life and found him amongst sinner’s and thought it weird that he would be with “these sinner types”, if they found Him offensive (Matt. 9:12). And the more I read about Jesus’ life the more I saw that the so called “sick” (those that didn’t know God) were not at all offended by Him. You can find many stories of Christ amongst known sinners (John 4, John 8 Matt.9 and so on) of which none were offended. In fact the love Christ had for these gave Him the title Friend of Sinners (Matt 11:19).
The further I delved into this topic I started seeing that the ones offended by Christ were those that believed in God. The obvious history is that these people were Jews, and or people in a culture of earning salvation. The simplicity of the Gospel was offensive to them because they felt others needed to prove themselves, or earn the mercy and grace that was being shown to them because they had too. (Jews vs. Gentiles, circumsicion kind of stuff) To hear that Love is all you need from Christ was too simple. It gave too much freedom, and those trapped in the Law were offended that someone else could get to Heaven without doing the work they felt necessary to gain salvation. Perhaps the ones offended thought they new more than Jesus. I mean Jesus wasn’t a Rabbi. Who was this carpenter to try and tell them anything? As far as I can tell not one “sick” (Matt. 9:12) person was ever offended by Christ’s love, and the saving grace of the Gospel.
This is shown perfectly in the Lost Son parable. I’m sure you’ve all read the story in Luke 15 but for those that haven’t let me retell the story in a slightly different way. There are these two guys that call themselves Christians. They have been attending church their whole lives. Their Pastor (the character of God in the story) has been their Pastor their entire lives. They have a great relationship with the Pastor and the Pastor loves the boys very much. One day, one of the boys decides that maybe this Christianity thing isn’t for him anymore so he stops attending church and goes on a journey of exploration and excess. The other Christian has dedicated himself now even more to the work of his faith. He is studying the scriptures, attending small group, involved in worship and the weeks he’s not on worship he’s ushering. He’s committed to his faith. The other guy has gone so far in his life of self-desires that he ends up broke and homeless, dirty and hung-over. Realizing he just can’t keep this life of meaningless decisions and acquisitions he decides to humbly come back to church. He slowly sneaks in the back of the building only to be tackled by God’s love. God decides to change the service into a party for his recently returned friend.
This upset’s the other believer. He’s been working so hard at this church, doing all he can for God and God has never cancelled the service for him. Why should this punk, who turned his back on God and His church, get such a great welcome when he returns? If anyone should be recognized it should be me for perfect attendance? I mean this guy didn’t even get a thank you in the bulletin for his years of service and with no notice we are throwing a potluck for this selfish sinner?
The story goes on a little from there but we can see how the Gospel is offensive to anyone who thinks they deserve it. If you’ve been raised to believe that you need to earn the Love of God seeing someone else receive it shouldn’t be but can be offensive. There’s an old sales rule. 99% of the time we only think about ourselves and this is even true in our faith. We are happy to accept the grace found in true love, but are less happy when others receive the same thing. Especially if we don’t think they should.
As far as I can tell those offended by the Gospel/Christ were the “other brother (actual story of the Lost Son)”. The one dedicated to earning favour and seeing someone else get spoiled offended them.
I’m not sure love hurts (I can’t help but sing the Nazareth song when I write love hurts) or offends unless you’ve forgotten that the love has been given to you as well. We’ve all gotten jealous of a sibling or friend that receives an awesome gift. The sad part is we usually forget the times we’ve received something and they haven’t.
I’ll end with this. A good friend of mine is pastoring in Thunder Bay now. She told me that she refused to read 1 Corinthians 13 at their wedding because she hated that that verse was put only into the context of marriage. She feels it’s meant for every relationship, and every moment we interact with others. I will quote the verse below but before I do here’s my thoughts. If the Law is fulfilled in Love, then the Gospel is Love. (Kenny said that going deeper than love is needed in a comment on my last post that it needs to be love shown by grace and mercy..Well, I’d say showing grace and mercy is love, actually I’d say that you can’t show grace and mercy without love. They are a by-product of Love. Love is not a by-product of them). And if the gospel is love here’s what it looks like for us. This is what we are called to do and be. 1 Cor. 13 in the Message.
1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled. 11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Pretty offensive hey?? Look, when someone is brought to the Saving Love of Christ the Spirit will show them that the “wages of sin is death”. But in a loving relationship that’s not offensive to hear, like a parent doesn’t offend their children when they say you do that and you’re gonna get a spank. So love your face off.. Love till you can’t love anymore and maybe, just maybe you’ll be showing the Gospel of Christ to those that need it the way they should see it. Be a doctor to the sick, help them heal (you don’t heal them). Plant the seed, let Christ prune the plant. Unless you don’t think He can?