As our world continues to fight amongst ourselves – arguing about who is wrong, who is right. Who is offensive and who has been offended. While we weigh pros and cons of various sides, trying to make it through the minutia of conflicting information, it becomes hard to know right from wrong. And nothing has escaped the microscope of offense. A few months ago, a series of brands announced their plans to change their image, including Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Cream of Wheat and Land ‘O Lakes. This article isn’t about whether this is the right or wrong move. I’ve seen both support and outrage over this. And, as I’ve thought about it, I can’t help but think of how we as Christians have been doing this same thing for years…trying to re-brand and re-package Christianity, so we don’t come across as judgmental, insensitive or offensive.
But, the Bible IS offensive. There are verses upon verses that speak of it, including 1 Peter 2:7-8 which says, “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” But, let’s table that…
Here’s the thing – we want to win souls for Jesus, but we don’t want to tell people they are sinners. That would offend them. So, we focus on the love of Jesus. I don’t disagree that Jesus’ love is worthy of discussion and a valuable tool in evangelism… After all, it was the love of Jesus that kept Him nailed to a cross to die a horrific, grotesque and agonizing death – for us. And, there are some who, unquestionably, will come to faith in Christ solely based on His love. And, that’s wonderful! Amazing! We need to celebrate them!
But, I want to show you today why we can’t re-brand Christianity entirely and we can’t worry about offending others with it. As previously stated, the Bible already says people will be offended, so we can’t solely focus on “God is love.” We can’t leave out important details like these:
- We are all sinners who deserve death.
- We can’t earn our way to heaven.
- We are all in desperate need of a Savior.
Those are things we don’t want to talk about. After all, no one likes to be told they are wrong…that they aren’t enough…or that they can’t rely on themselves. Yet, I think of the words of Alice Cooper – yes, that Alice Cooper. He is a devout Christian, and he said in an interview once, “I needed the hell scared out of me – literally.”
Here are the problems we face when we sanitize our evangelism too much:
- Pride can’t be humbled into humility when people aren’t made to understand how much they need Jesus. It’s not enough to simply WANT Him – we have to understand that we also NEED Him.
- Sinners can’t repent when we don’t fully appreciate our wrongdoings and how disdainful our sin is to a Holy God. And repentance isn’t just saying, “I’m sorry.” Repentance is about changing behaviors and turning away from sin. How can we change if we don’t understand the magnitude of our offense?
- People can’t become fully dependent on God for everything if we don’t realize our desperate need for Him.
- People can’t fully appreciate God’s love until we understand His mercy and grace. There are some who need to understand the depravity of their sin before they can truly appreciate the magnitude of God’s love.
The Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament and while he wrote often of God’s love, he never skirted the issue of this truth: We are all sinners who need saving and that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 are my favorite verses and are the verses that inspired the name of my blog. They say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Paul also wrote, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b). He met people where they were. He didn’t try to present Jesus in a way so others wouldn’t be offended. Given how many times the man was beaten, flogged, stoned and even the way he was executed by beheading – I think we can all agree that plenty were offended by his words. But, he focused on speaking truth. And, the truth of the Gospel, includes both God’s love as well as His demand for justice. Usually, when we refer to “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” we stop. But, let’s look at the verses that follow in Romans 3:23-26: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
It’s not about our goodness, it’s about God’s. Our sin caused a chasm that God Himself, in His love, rectified. And, to fully understand that, we have to understand that His love isn’t because we deserve it… We don’t. But, because God is good and loving and merciful, He gives it.
As we continue in our efforts for evangelism, and try to brand Christianity, let us remember that it’s more than “God is love.” It’s about “God is merciful,” too.