I got into trouble on Facebook the other day because I wrote that it matters what we believe and do, that there is a difference between those who are God’s people and those who aren’t. Some people will experience God’s love and forgiveness, but others will experience His wrath and judgement. The only difference between experiencing God’s love and forgiveness and His wrath and judgement is our repentance. I quoted several verses, including Romans 2:5-14. (If you are interested in investigating this for yourself, which I encourage you to do, look up “repent” or “repentance” in an on-line Bible). I’m not sure if the FB friend misunderstood what I was saying or if he was offended at the idea that there is a difference between those are God’s people who aren’t, or that repentance is required for a person to experience God’s love and forgiveness. But I know that people LIKE the idea that Jesus is a loving, forgiving, merciful, gracious, and compassionate God, and many seem to abhor the thought that we have to repent and forsake sin. I think many want to be forgiven by God AND do what they want.
I think most of us see Jesus as only loving, forgiving, merciful, gracious, and compassionate, and we think that the people who met Him when he was on earth were all drawn to Him, and that He never said anything unkind. We forget that Jesus often said things that we’d find very offensive and judgmental today. He said things like:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! (John 8:43-45)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (Matt. 23:13)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. (Matt. 23:15)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. (Matt. 23:27)
Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Very few people accepted Christ while He was on earth. Most were very offended by Him. The residents of His home town were offended by Him (Mark 6:3), the Zealots who wanted a leader to crush the Romans were offended, the politicians were offended, as were the religious leaders of His day. (Interestingly, believers throughout history have most often been persecuted by the established religious order. Lest those who have left the established church today get smug, I’d say that most of the denominations of today were originally a radical group of believers who thought the established church was corrupted and who longed to follow Christ, and were persecuted for their beliefs. The Protestant Movement was a result of a radical group of believers who thought the established church was corrupted and who longed to follow Christ, and were persecuted for their beliefs. Christianity was once a radical group of believers who were persecuted for their beliefs. It seems to me that most of these radical movements then established their creeds and rules, became corrupt, and persecuted the next radical group of believers who believed the established church was corrupted and yearned to follow Christ. I imagine the radical movements of today filled with people who long to follow Christ will one day be the established church that persecutes the next movement.)
At one point, in John 6:60-71, on hearing His teachings, His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Michael Card wrote a song called Scandalon a few years ago:
The seers and the prophets had foretold it long ago
That the long awaited one would make men stumble
But they were looking for a king to conquer and to kill
Who’d have ever thought He’d be so meek and humble
A stone that makes men stumble
To some He is a barrier, To others He’s the way
He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
A SCANDALON is something you trip over and fall head first onto the rocks below.• A scandalon is that sharpened stick in an animal trap that, when the trap is sprung, stabs the trapped animal and kills it.
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread.
He will be a holy place;
for both Israel and Judah he will be
a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare.
Many of them will stumble;
they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured.” (Isaiah 8:13-15)What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:30-33)
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. (1 Peter 2:4-8)
Jesus was offensive because He spoke the truth, and truth is offensive to those who don’t want to hear it. We need to be careful that we don’t make Jesus so inoffensive, water down the truth so thoroughly, that we make Him into a god of our own imagination, who fulfills expectations and wishes. I see many Christians who are terribly afraid of causing offense and being labeled “judgmental.” I have seen people say something that is clearly in the Bible, and then back down from it when there is an uproar. “Tolerance” is becoming more important than truth. If our God isn’t offensive, maybe we don’t know Him as well as we thought. Being religious, whether in the church or out of it, isn’t a safeguard: Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt. 7:13-14)