GOD ANSWERS-WHY ARE PEOPLE OFFENED BY US
Dear friends in Christ,
I met Jack in the seventh grade. He was a prodigy. He was supposed to be in the sixth grade but he was too smart for that. He was too smart for the seventh grade too. Eventually he skipped a grade in high school also. So when he graduated he was three years ahead of his original grade.
Sometimes people who are geniuses are kind of different. He wasn’t… most of the time. He liked Diane. No one blamed him for that. All the guys liked Diane. Every now and then he wore a three piece suit to school to impress her. C’mon Jack! That was nerdy. We called it dumb. “Nerdy” wasn’t invented yet when I was in the 8th grade.
He was tall for his age. He came out for basketball. He was clumsy. He hurt more guys by falling on them in practice than points he scored. He excelled in the classroom. He didn’t get many questions wrong. Often he was able to convince the teachers that he was right and the answer book was wrong. He was a good guy. He was a good friend to have. He helped our class pass Math. He excelled in Math, but just about everything else too.
I lost track of him after the eighth grade. I went away from home to high school at one of our church body’s schools. I found out that I was accepted to Prep in the closing days of my eighth grade year. I waited until the end of the school year to tell my friends. The last day of school was a sad day for me. I would miss Diane too! I remember Jack was surprised at my announcement. He asked why I was going there. I told him I wanted to be a pastor. I will never forget what he said, “You don’t believe that junk, do you?” Well Jack, I guess I do. It was the first time I remember ever being insulted so harshly for my faith in Jesus.
Actually that’s the price Christians pay. It has always been and will be the case, but it seems to have gotten worse in recent years. Today God answers why – Why Are People Offended By Us? 1) It is a sad reality; 2) It is a sign of loyalty to the Lord.
It is a sad reality that people are offended by Jesus and his followers. Jesus certainly experienced it. The residents of his hometown were offended by him. This incident took place at the front end of his ministry. He was preaching in Galilee. Matthew tells us that “news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”
But when he went home to Nazareth, the city in which he grew up, the tide turned against him. One Sabbath Day, he read for the Sabbath service. “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He read from Isaiah who lived seven hundred years prior. When he was done “he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Everyone was impressed…at least for a little while. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” But his words began to percolate in their minds and they realized what he had said. He’s claimed the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled that very day before their very eyes. He claimed that Isaiah was speaking about him. That did not sit well with those in the synagogue.
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.” He was the kid who lived here and grew up here. His father was Joseph, the carpenter. Not particularly impressive credentials! As far as they were concerned he was just one of the kids running around and getting into trouble like kids do. Obviously they didn’t see Jesus close up. They didn’t see how Jesus was so different - so holy - so perfect.
Jesus added fuel to the fire simply by speaking the truth. Jesus compared the people of his hometown to the people of Elijah and Elisha’s day. The Jews didn’t listen to the prophets Elijah and Elisha either. In fact, they were so rebellious, the true and living God sent those revered two prophets to Gentiles to teach and preach to them. Elijah went to the widow of Zarephath which was in Phoenicia - not in Israel. Elisha preached to Naaman, a general in the Syria’s army. The mention of that caused the citizens of Nazareth to blow their gaskets. The LORD is the God of the Jews only and not all people. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.” They were so angry and offended by Jesus they wanted to throw him off a cliff. Jesus used his almighty power to keep them from that sin. Were they offended by Jesus? You bet they were.
Jesus does offend people. The apostle John wrote, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Why was there so much hatred for Jesus? Why were so many offended by him?
A lot were offended because they had a misconception of the Messiah. To them Messiah was to be a king and live in their palace and command their army. Messiah was to fix the many problems in Judah that they thought needed fixing.
Why are people offended by him today? There are all kinds of reasons, but we claim he is God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We Christians claim he has power and might and strength. Yet where is this King of kings and Lord of lords when this world has so many problems to fix and nothing seems to get done? So people become cynical. We are also vulnerable to think such things too.
People are offended when we let them know the ultimate problem he came to deal with, the mother of all problems, is not the one anyone likes to talk about – the deep-rooted problem of sin.
Walt Kelly was the author of the comic strip Pogo. He created a poster for Earth Day in 1970. In it Pogo is in the forest with a friend, but instead of seeing the forest floor, the floor is covered with broken glass and trash of every sort. Pogo’s friend says it is hard walking on the forest floor because all the trash. Pogo says, “Yes, it sure is!” He then says these famous words, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.”
Nothing could be truer in the world, but it is not only about environmental problems, but the problem of problems, sin. When C.S. Lewis wrote his famous article “The Great Sin,” he was referring to pride as the great sin. Pride, the almighty I, me is indeed behind all others. Pride keeps people from seeing the value, need and worth of Jesus. Pride looks down when we need to be looking up. Until we look up, Jesus will mean nothing. Jesus will only be resented.
Pride needs to be pushed aside and truth needs to replace it. The truth is that all need to admit the shameful and embarrassing things we have done. The truth is that everyone needs to stop being offended by Jesus and thank Jesus for removing the countless times we offended God.
Do you also know what offends people besides Jesus himself? The people who are offended by the people, who by the Holy Spirit’s power, “get it” when it comes to Jesus! People who know the forgiving Jesus want to spread it around. But in doing so, they become offensive to the ones they want to spread the news.
Where do we want to start? With family and friends! But how are the people of God met? The enthusiasm of the receiver is not met with the same kind of enthusiasm as the giver. There is coldness and avoidance and withdrawal. Jesus said it would be this way. Until the end of time “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Why are families divided? Because of Christ! I never did see Jack again after I left school in the 8th grade. Now that wasn’t completely his fault. I am to blame there too, but we weren’t lasting friends.
What also happens is that those family members and friends begin bracing for a transformation that makes them wary of that Christian. When is that holier-than-thou attitude going to appear? When will we see the evidence of that judgmental Bible thumper start coming out? They have the idea that the Christian now feels he is superior when it is really the opposite…or at least should be? In the meantime the family member or friend has their radar up and funning looking for all kinds of hypocrisy.
Jesus felt this resentment, not only from the people of his hometown, but even from his family. For a good amount of time the Bible says “his own brothers did not believe in him.” There was a time when he was preaching in Jerusalem and his family urged Jesus should get away from Jerusalem as far as he could because his teaching was offending so many people.
But what makes Christians to be Christians is not a better-than-thou-attitude or ever feeling superior but having an understanding the five letter word “grace” - God’s grace. Grace says there is “nothing in my hands I bring; simply to the cross I cling.” Grace is from God and needed by all and is offered to all.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that when people feel offended by you, understood correctly, it a sign that you are loyal to Christ. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Instead of letting the isolation that you might feel get the best of you, remember who remains faithful to you. Seek him. The psalmist wrote, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Even when people, maybe even our families, dessert us, remember that Jesus continues to love you when human love runs out.
When your faith makes you feel like Elijah felt when he thought he was the last one on earth that still believed, know that you are not alone. Seek refuge in God’s family. There was a time when was teaching and his mother and brothers stood outside. They wanted to speak to him. Someone told him that his family wanted to speak to him. The Bible says, “He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” We have family here in the body of Christ. Here is acceptance and we have the common goal to get to the eternal victory line.
I pray that all members of your family are also members of this greater family. Dr. James Dobson’s son experienced the loss of a good friend in death. Dr. Dobson took that occasion to say these wise words: “I will always care about the things you do and the things that happen to you in this world. But you need to know one thing. Nothing in life matters more to me than having you with me forever in heaven. And if I know anything at all, I know that the only way is Jesus Christ. This is certain that someday I’ll be looking for your face in that great city of Jerusalem for you. And whatever else you do, I beg you to take another look at Jesus. I want you to be there with me. I want you to be there with him.” When we get there, no longer will anyone be offended by him, but will only be ready to praise him forevermore.