If You’re Not Offending Someone, You’re Not Preaching the Gospel

by Mike Duran · 23 comments

"Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" by Heinrich Hofmann

“Christ and the Rich Young Ruler” by Heinrich Hofmann

It’s been said, “The problem with Christians nowadays is that nobody wants to stone them anymore.”

There’s much truth to that.

I engaged in an online discussion this weekend about the Church’s treatment of outsiders, namely those in the LGBT community. There’s an assumption in such conversations that if the Gospel was REALLY preached and if Christians were REALLY loving, then outsiders just couldn’t help but be wooed to Christ and embrace the Gospel. Translation: If Christians were more loving, LGBT folks wouldn’t be offended so much and leaving the Church

I just don’t think this is true.

Sure, Christians can be jerks. People sometimes leave churches because a church is joyless, unloving, legalistic, wishy-washy, phony, or irrelevant. Chesterton suggested that what many people reject is not Christ, but a false caricature. Likewise, if a church is portraying a “false caricature” of Christ or Christianity, it should be left. However, Scripture is pretty clear that not all “leavers” do so because a false Gospel is being preached or a “false Christ” is being portrayed.

Some people leave the Church because they have rightly heard the Gospel and its implications.

It’s fallacious to assume that if people reject our message, either our presentation is wrong or our message needs modified. If someone is offended by the Gospel, we say, either we’re not sharing the REAL Gospel or we’re not presenting it in a loving manner.  However, when truth is lovingly spoken it can potentially hurt people’s feelings. And when people’s feelings are hurt, the messenger can be accused of being an unChrist-like meanie. Which many accuse Christians of being.

But if feelings are so sacred, I’m not sure Jesus got the message. Yes, He is meek and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29). He is a friend of sinners (Matt. 11:19). He knows us intimately and loves us deeply. I am incredibly thankful for these things! But He also came to bring a sword and divide households (Matt. 10:34). He came to call sinners to repentance (Lk. 5:32). And He will return to judge the world.

These things definitely grate.

Not offending people or not hurting their feelings, wooing everyone to Himself, did not seem high on Jesus’ list of priorities.

  • Jesus didn’t seem to care about the rich young ruler’s feelings when he told him to sell everything and give it to the poor.
  • Jesus didn’t seem to worry about offending the adulteress when he told her to go and sin no more.
  • Jesus didn’t seem concerned about the Pharisee’s feelings when He called them a brood of vipers.
  • Jesus didn’t give Nicodemus other options to being born again.
  • Jesus wasn’t worried about driving away the multitudes when He commanded them to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
  • Jesus seemed unconcerned about the invalid’s feelings when he told him to stop sinning lest something worse come upon him.
  • Jesus probably offended the moneychangers when He drove them out of the temple.
  • Jesus didn’t care about Peter’s feelings when He called him “Satan” and told him to split.
  • Jesus wasn’t concerned if people liked the Gospel when He told potential disciples that they couldn’t be followers unless they denied themselves and took up their crosses.

He was Jesus, so of course He cared about their feelings! He loved each one of them — including those blasted Pharisees. Their pain. Their brokenness. Their existential wanderings. Their rigid intolerance. Their genetic predispositions. Their squandered talents. How could He not care about them and their feelings?

But His love for them didn’t stop Him from speaking the truth.

Jesus loves you so much that He will risk offending you.

No, He probably won’t be mean, rude, pushy, or condemning. But He will tell you the truth. And whenever you tell the truth, you run the risk of offending someone. And being accused of being “mean, rude, pushy, or condemning.” Which is probably why Jesus offended so many people.

Sometimes offending people is evidence that we’re preaching a false Gospel. Sometimes offending people is evidence that we’re preaching the true Gospel.

In fact, the Apostle Paul said that “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (I Cor. 1:23 NIV). In this sense, one way to know if you’re accurately preaching Christ is if some are offended and others call you a fool.

Just because LGBT people are leaving the Church or offended by Christians is not necessarily evidence that a church is not preaching the Gospel or that Christians are unloving.

Ultimately, if a Christian’s goal is to not be offensive, then they will either modify the Gospel or marginalize its message. Sadly, many Christians appear guilty of this. While some appear to strip the Gospel of its demands for moral change (repent and believe), others elevate love and social justice above the truth of Scripture. Either way, if we have to minimize or tinker with the Gospel to make it more palatable, then it’s not the Gospel we’re preaching.

Of course, the Church’s treatment of outsiders is really important. Indeed, some have left the Church and bailed on Christianity because of a poor caricature. We must take heed when this applies. However, let us not assume that if the Gospel is REALLY preached and if Christians are REALLY loving, then outsiders will come running to our churches. Yes, some people, upon hearing the Gospel, will turn to Christ. Others, will call you an unloving, insensitive, person. But if my theory is correct, you should rejoice in such renunciation. Because if you’re not offending someone, you’re not preaching the Gospel.

If some people don’t want to stone you, you might be doing something wrong.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca LuElla Miller May 18, 2015 at 1:31 PM

Good post, Mike. You’re right of course. Jesus even said to His disciples that they/we would suffer. I think there’s another companion issue involved. Today if we “suffer” for what we believe, we want to sue or stir up political action because we have rights! That position also ignores the fact that the gospel itself is an offense to those who don’t believe. So instead of taking things personally or politically, we should respond spiritually and be more like Paul and Silas, singing hymns in prison at midnight after being beaten.

Becky

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Erica May 19, 2015 at 9:52 AM

Great and beneficial post, Mike!

The truth always hurts. This is why it is such a popular saying. I can say it quiet as a mouse or meek as a monk, but if I am telling the truth I may be vilified for it.

As a Christian I know it is hard at times to share the Gospel even though I have been on this walk more than sixteen years now and loving every moment of it. And then I have to think how Christ did it.

The main thing: speak the truth. It is a balm.

Thank you again.

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Lucien Morin May 20, 2015 at 10:20 AM

Sorry Mike, I disagree with your thesis. I don’t see Jesus the way you do. Gospel means Good News. If you are offending people by delivering the Good News, I would question your delivery. The Gospels are meant to be discussed and shared and processed, but more importantly, Christians need to communicate their desire to follow Christ’s loving and divine example in service to others. He was divine, we are not. Less talk, more action. Anybody can parrot Christ’s quotations and spin quotations to satisfy their own psychological needs. Self included. Service to others without condition is where it’s at for me. It gives me less time to be judgemental and furthers my practice of learning the value of helping and loving others. “Do unto others…..” I don’t think Christ was ever offensive. Sorry, that’s your interpretation.

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Nathan May 21, 2015 at 7:39 AM

Lucien, I’m curious as to what you make of passages such as John 6:41-45, where Jesus incited the Jews to grumble about him because of his claims that he was the bread from heaven? Or when he referred to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees as “white-washed tombs.” Based on those passages, the people seemed very offended by what Jesus was either saying about himself or about them. Gospel does indeed mean “good news.” But for people to recognize it as good news, sometimes they must first be broken–and that means they must be convicted of their sins, which is rarely ever pleasant.

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Lucien May 23, 2015 at 9:32 AM

Thank you for your caring response Nathan. In my opinion, Jesus was turning the Judaism ship so to speak. He was delivered for that purpose, so many Jews were resistant as human beings tend to be when it comes to change. I have a tendency to look at the big picture. The entire text of all the things Jesus said and taught. Why do you think He used parables, metaphors, and aphorisms when he taught and preached? He wanted us to think and find our way through his teaching. It’s very similar to what a therapist helping a person to help themselves practice. The therapist guides a person through their own thoughtful process of their decision patterns toward introspection, learning, and problem solving. The same is true for teaching. It’s all Good News! “Learn to love one another as I have loved you.” Of all the things one could focus on in His teaching, I find it curious that one would focus on delivering the Good News in an offensive way. I still disagree.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller May 23, 2015 at 10:19 AM

Lucien, I think it’s important for Christians not to be the offense. I don’t believe Mike was saying we should be offensive in the way we share the gospel. It’s possible to say what’s true but to do so in such an obnoxious way that even people who agree with you are offended. Rather, I think we are to speak the truth in love, as Paul admonished us to do. The offense is the gospel itself, and if people aren’t offended, then perhaps we aren’t actually preaching the gospel but rather the “empty philosophy of the world according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ.”

Nathan pointed out that Jesus said things that offended the Pharisees, some about Himself (the gospel) and some about them. He said, for example, that they were sons of the devil, not of Abraham. He called them whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers. More than once He called them hypocrites. But Jesus is omniscient. I don’t think He’s given us the license to offend people because He said things that were offensive.

Actually, so much as it is up to us, we’re to be at peace with all men. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are to stop preaching the gospel because it offends people. Speaking the truth in love doesn’t guarantee people will see our heart of love and credit us with our intention. If the gospel offends them, they’re apt to see us as offensive. Pretty much the only way we can guarantee we won’t offend others is by shutting up and sitting down. And that should not be an option for a Christian. Neither should candy-coating the gospel to protect people from the offensive parts.

Becky

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Lucien May 25, 2015 at 8:23 AM

Becky, Thank you for kind and thoughtful response. I like the way you break it down. I have never felt offended by the gospel or the teachings and quotations of Christ. I have never felt offended by clergy presenting homilies on the gospel. If a person feels offended by the gospel alone in quiet reflection, that is one thing, but clergy or authority figures such as Mike, who give themselves or others the green light to deliver the gospel in a way that offends others, is missing the mark. I have a friend who tells me that I see Jesus through my own prism. I think this is true about me and every Christian. I think that is natural and knowing this, I believe that Jesus was loving, inclusive, and tolerant, so this is the example I will follow. I was taught that it is the Holy Spirit that guides us in such reflection. The symbol for the Holy Spirit is a hovering white dove, not a diving screaming eagle.
Lucien

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JaredMithrandir May 30, 2015 at 5:49 PM

When I read Acts, I see that the only people really hostile to Paul were among those who thought they were already Believers in the true God (The Jews). The Gentiles who didn’t get Saved immediately either were curious about his message or just ignored him.

So do, your premise is off.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller May 31, 2015 at 6:17 PM

Jared, just to keep the record straight, Paul did run into persecution from Gentiles, too. Think of the silversmith co-op that was angry with him because people were leaving idol worship. They started a riot with the intent to kick Paul out of town, at the least.

Becky

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JaredMithrandir May 31, 2015 at 10:26 PM

I address issues like that in my post. The key thing is no one was offended by the Mars Hill Sermon, the most negative reaction was that some mocked it, meaning fond it funny.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller June 1, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Jared, the Mars Hill “sermon” was one event. It’s true the Athenians were a bunch of people who wanted their ears tickled with something new, so by and large they weren’t offended by what Paul said.

However, the riot that arose in Ephesus, occurred not because of greed, though that was what motivated the craftsmen. This is what Acts says: “But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ ” Their opposition to Paul was because he was a Jew. A monotheist. That was offensive to these worshipers of Artemis.

One more thing about Jesus: when He sent out The Twelve and later The Seventy, He told them to shake the dust off their feet whenever they were not received—again this implies that the good news they announced would not be to everyone’s liking, with no particular class of people mentioned as those who would be most likely to take offense.

Look at what Jesus said to His disciples in John 15: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” (19-21)

The truth is, Jesus believed the world hated Him and persecuted Him, and He warned us the same would be true of us as His followers.

Becky

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JaredMithrandir May 30, 2015 at 8:15 PM
Priscilla141 June 14, 2015 at 7:09 PM

I read your book ” the ghost box,” while I found the writing style excellent, I was so wanting the main character to get saved in Christ. So, besides reflecting non-realities ( ghosts, aliens,) this was my main frustration. You do write an interesting book.
One question. Why did you show a ” medium” as a believer in Christ? Since we know that practice is ( usually ) a con; the real ” ghosts” being, of course demonic deception. And consulting a medium or being one is forbidden to us believers? Were you just trying to show just a realm of possibilities?
Anyway, overall I did enjoy the book. Your writing brings it to life. Since I’ve sought the truth of these things for myself, it didn’t concern me too much.

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Priscilla141 June 14, 2015 at 7:18 PM

Absolutely right. Since I witness and do apologetics I get a good deal of hostility from nonbelievers. However, ” the servant is not above the Master.” Once I was saved, I knew hostility and persecution of various forms was inevitable. In my Southern Baptist Church, we preach Biblical truth. Some who are unsaved, unless being drawn to God, do only visit once. But the folks who are being drawn to Him come back, even though they are getting convicted of sin. I remember that conviction in myself, very strong right before I was saved. What a blessed relief that was, and is. So, we preach with love, and witness with it, also. But we do expect God’s truth to offend. Jesus’s preaching offended the ones who rejected Him. Most do willfully reject the salvation of The Lord. Even God allows them to choose.

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Priscilla141 June 14, 2015 at 7:25 PM

Since believers don’t practice sin ( a life long pattern of radical sin, ) we don’t have any LGBT folks in our church. Some saved folks with a bit of remaining same-sex attraction, sure we have them. For many of them, it’s sanctified out of them; just as for the rest of us with our own particular besetting sins. I have witnessed to LGBT people, and while many just get angry, I’ve seen some saved by Christ. So, it’s always worth it to have those conversations. It is a glorious thing to see God save someone; making him or her a ” new creature in Christ.”

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JaredMithrandir June 16, 2015 at 1:18 PM

Homosexuality is not a Sin. That is a tradition of the Pharisees.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller June 17, 2015 at 9:49 AM

Really, Jared? So when Paul included “homosexuals” in the list of the unrighteous, he was speaking as a Pharisee and not as an apostle inspired by the Holy Spirit?

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor fneffeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11; see also 1 Tim. 1:8-11)

Becky

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JaredMithrandir December 2, 2015 at 9:07 PM
john December 2, 2015 at 1:18 AM

Amen Sister

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john December 2, 2015 at 12:58 AM

Romans 9:33
as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
1 Peter 2:8
and
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
Isaiah 8:14
And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

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john December 2, 2015 at 1:14 AM

I think if you are offended it is because of unbelief. If you agree with the Gospel and the message concerning the wages of sin altogether then you embrace the Jesus. The offence is taken by unbelievers. They do indeed take great offence concerning the Gospel. Some just malign you with words and scoffing and mockery. Others more violent in being offended. As for those who contend they are not offended and practice sin. That is also unbelief for they hear what they want from the word of God and choose not to hear what the whole word and counsel of God says concerning the walk of faith. Our Grace was not cheap it was bought with a great price. Jesus began His work in this way…Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

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JaredMithrandir December 2, 2015 at 9:08 PM

That ha snot been my experience with Unbeleivers at all.

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Tom Titus November 22, 2016 at 10:10 AM

I give sermons in Church and I touch topics that matters. However , I do have noticed that those who are offended by my sermons are those who are guilty . I never seen people who believe in Christ and the Bible get offended.

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