“Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?Matthew 15:12 (ESV)
I recently received a copy of a new study Bible for which I will write a review in the next week or so. To prepare for the review, I thought I would use it as I do my daily Bible reading and assess the helpfulness of the notes as I go through each passage.
Looking at the notes for the passage cited above, the commentator referred to this as a “non-issue” for Jesus. Jesus was not concerned at all about offending the Pharisees, even though they held significant influence in society at that time.
We need to face the fact that sometimes the truth is offensive. Sometimes what we need to hear is the opposite of what we want to hear. In a fallen, broken world, we cannot escape this.
When the doctor tells me that I need to change my behavior or face health consequences, he is not being intolerant even though he is telling me something that I don’t really want to hear. I don’t like it, but I know it is true, and it is in my best interest to act on that information.
In the popular religion of our society, we are asked to never give an offense. We are asked to never call any behavior wrong. We are asked to accept any and every belief as equally true. We are asked to offend our own conscience for the sake of not offending someone else’s.
In our societal religion, the definition of tolerance has morphed from being willing to let someone else hold a different opinion to accepting every opinion is equally true.
Unfortunately, this societal religion has crept into the church.
When the discussion of church leadership moves away from how we can lovingly communicate the truth of the gospel, and focuses on being inoffensive on a Sunday morning, we have succumbed to societal religion and have started down a path that will lead us away from Jesus Christ. When the leadership of a church takes down the cross because someone might be offended by it, that church has begun moving away from following Christ.
Certainly, we want to be good communicators of God’s love. We follow Christ out of our gratitude for the grace we have been given. We want to present the beauty of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. We should accurately reflect the attitude of Jesus who welcomed all to come into relationship with himself. In doing this, we should do it in a way that accurately represents who Jesus is and how he loved humanity.
But Jesus did not shrink from conveying to humanity that those who reject him will face consequences. Nowhere can you find Jesus indicating that ideas don’t matter and any belief is acceptable as long as it is firmly held. On every page of the gospel accounts, Jesus says something that is deemed intolerant by our society.
Let’s face the fact that Jesus was divisive. He had a narrow view of truth.
Therefore, if our desire to be inoffensive interferes with our ability to present the truth that apart from Christ there is no salvation (Jesus said that, it is not me making this up), then we have ceased being the Church and have become just another social club that is nominally religious.