I have always had a visceral reaction against bullies, people who use their power or strength to pick on someone who is weaker or vulnerable. Maybe it is related to my disdain for conflict. Like most people, I hate being involved in arguments and relationship breakdowns. A desire to avoid conflict is not necessarily an unhealthy thing, but it can become that if it rules our actions and causes us to withdraw when in fact we should stand our ground. And it’s possible that the desire to avoid conflict springs from the tremendous social pressure to be tolerant of everyone and every behavior, no matter how much we may disagree with it. Tolerance of all is the mantra of the majority, and right alongside it is the chant to “never cause any offense.”
Oftentimes when people express contrary ideas or beliefs, they will eventually be confronted with a statement like, “Who are you to judge?” No one wants to cause an offense or be thought of as narrow-minded, so often people just go with the flow and stay quiet when they disagree with something. The attitude of not causing offense is pervasive, and while I agree that we should never seek to harm others, fear of offense or conflict actually hinders us from sharing the beauty of Jesus.
The problem for a Christian with not wanting to ever offend others is that the Gospel—his message of salvation through him alone—by its very nature will offend people. Even the very first public message Jesus delivered caused people to be offended (Luke 4:24). It was not his intent to cause offense, but the character of his message can and does offend. Why? Because it contradicts many points of view that people would be more comfortable maintaining.
The popular message is that there are many ways to heaven, or that we all worship the same god, so what’s the difference what name we call him?” People will be offended when you simply say what Jesus said—that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life; NO ONE comes to the Father, but THROUGH me.” (John 14:6)
For years, my discomfort with offending people caused me to try to “soften” this message—to make it a little more palatable for others. People often make the mistake of trying to take the offense out of the Gospel, but we must accept that when we share the truth about Jesus, people will be offended. As Greg Koukl of the ministry Stand to Reason says, “Don’t try to remove the offense from it, but take care not to be more offensive than need be.”
The message we need to share is a message of God’s great love for all people. A Creator that loves HIS creation so much that He has freely given to all who accept it the gift of everlasting life with Him, A gift that is only available through Jesus. Unfortunately, it will offend some and they will reject it, but others may become offended enough to take a hard look at it and accept Jesus.
The world is going to increase in its intolerance for the Christian message; let’s never fail to speak for fear of causing offense with the message of Christ. Let’s not try to compromise the fact that he is “…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense” (1Pe 2:8 ESV).