How did my last article rub you? Was it offensive? I cannot retract a word of it, but I can say I didn’t intend for one single thing to be a stumbling block for you. Let me clarify something that goes through my mind most every time I write. Peter says of Jesus, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” 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.’” (1st Peter 2.6-8) I understand that Jesus and His Word will always be an offense to those who do not know Him.
When I say “If your fad diet is the thing you are most excited about in 2016, you have a problem.” I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your diet. I’m saying there is something wrong deep down inside of you if your diet takes precedence over Jesus’ invitation for you to join Him in His work in 2016. You may have mega pounds to lose, or you may just want to trim some fat off the edges. That’s all good, even exciting. But there’s nothing more exciting than jumping on the band wagon with Jesus for another round of Gospel centered living! Can you do both, follow Jesus and diet? Absolutely. And if you do I can promise you that your enthusiasm for Jesus will swell to something that would register on the Richter Scale. Wanna get after it? Let’s go!
When I read the words “Rock of Offense,” I have to ask myself if I am following in Jesus’ footsteps, even just a little bit. If I am, I will most likely be offensive to some of the people I encounter. Hear me: I do not intend to slap people in the face with my words. I do not ever intend to be rude, crude, ugly, or hateful. I pray my conversations are always seasoned with grace, mercy, and compassion. But the reality is, as we examine the claims of Christ and His invitation to follow Him, He will lead us into places, conversations, and views that are offensive. It’s not intentional. It’s faithful.
Jesus didn’t just teach this, He lived it. His life was an almost constant offense to the religious establishment. He is almost always compassionate and patient with everyone else! But even in His compassion, the crowds walked away from Him, claiming offense (ex. His sermon at Nazareth in Mark 6, Following the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus tells His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood as found in John 6). May we be so tied to Jesus and the life He offers that our answer to Him in the midst of the exodus would mirror Peter’s, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6.68-69).
I love the stories of Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, calming the seas, and rescuing the trapped from evil. I love hearing how He took care of the children, loved on the poor, fed the hungry, and coached the quickened. I do not necessarily like the hard words He spoke to the Pharisees (Matthew 23). I recoil at His rebuke of Nicodemus (John 3.9-21). I limp when I get the full impact of His words to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” But reality is Jesus, all of Him, is found in both settings, the gentle and the tough.
If I am to follow Jesus, I find my life will mimic His at every turn. I will see compassion win 90% of the settings in which I find myself. I also feel a small 10% (give or take) of my time will be won by toughness. Let me restate that. Most of the time when the hammer falls I find my responses to the world will be marked by kindness, grace, and compassion. Most of the time I will be working in arenas that contain children, injured people, or people who are sick spiritually. These are the bruised reeds Jesus refuses to break and the smoldering wicks He refuses to put out. I must respond in kind. But sometimes, a very slim sometime, I will find myself in a situation that demands toughness. I will have to speak words, often the very words of Jesus, that will be offensive to those to whom I am speaking. That does not mean I cannot speak. Nor does it mean I can speak with hatred, pride, or an attitude. I must be broken before Christ before I can utter a single word of rebuke. But sometimes, those words must be uttered.
I would challenge you, as you face 2016, to consider the words of Christ. There is certainly a tone of excitement as we face this world together! We are at a place in history where the whole world stands to see Jesus for the first time. The church around the globe is experiencing great revival right now. Bibles are being translated at a record setting rate. Worship is transforming before our eyes as we turn our gaze Heavenward more and more. People are coming to Christ at such a speed we cannot even count their numbers. Praise God for the way He is working in this old world! We get to be a part of that.
As you find your place in His purpose for you, speak the truth in season and out of season. Be a light bearer in the darkest of rooms. Show compassion when all the world ignores the recipient. And follow Jesus to the end. That kind of lifestyle will bear a cross that only a Christ follower can carry. To that I say “May I help you with your load?”