Offense and Jesus

Facebook is dying.  I base that statement entirely on “body language” which is the same technique I used to successfully predict the outcome of the last presidential election even though the hard math predicted Clinton.  It’s dying because it has become unsocial and therefore un-fun.  As the nation becomes increasingly divided between the political religions of Liberalism and Conservatism, so too are the users of the once social network.

A friend of mine recently posted an article about Bernie Sanders’ support for the expansion of social security with the following personal comment, “Sounds like a good idea…..but of course someone here will have a problem with it,” meaning that she was bracing herself for major blow-back because she had taken the risk of expressing her opinion.  Why was she expecting that?  Prior experience.  Somebody gives their opinion and other users take that as an invitation to an argument rather than a conversation about the topic.

Conversations are adaptive social behavior whereas arguments are not.  I love talking about controversial topics because it stretches my humanity.  It forces me to “adult” and practice tolerance towards people who have a different perspective of the world than I do.  In short, it makes me grow as a human being.  The problem is that the art of conversation is becoming lost.  People don’t know how to talk peaceably with people they disagree with and they don’t know how to logically arrange their thoughts so they can make a compelling case for their point of view.  Here’s a good example…

Another friend of mine recently commented on a Smithsonian article about the Japanese whaling industry harvesting 300 Minke whales this past season.  The vast majority of the people who posted comments were absolutely aghast that the Japanese were even allowed to hunt whales.  My friend’s comment was simple, “From what I’ve just read, Minke whales are not endangered, and have never been considered endangered. Why do you care?”  His question was legitimate and if anybody had bothered to do literally 30 seconds of Google research they would have found that other nations hunt Minke whales because they are plentiful.  Norway is one of those countries and for the upcoming season they are increasing the limit to almost a 1000 whales but people are only upset with the Japanese because they don’t know that, because they don’t bother to think, they just react.  My friend’s reward for asking his reasonable question was this…

“And WHY DON’T YOU CARE? Maybe you need to get some BOOKS ON TAPE so you can EDUCATE YOURSELF while driving that little truck up and down the highway. HUH? How about it?”

This was just one of a number of responses that were purely argumentative in nature rather than conversational.  Obviously, he didn’t even attempt to answer the reasonable question, opting instead for the nuclear option of personal attack and insults.  My friend is a truck driver and based on the length of his career in that vocation, he’s a highly professional one.  He is also ridiculously smart and very well educated, albeit in a non-traditional and informal way.  When conversing with him I find him to be a formidable conversationalist.  He’s reasonable, articulate, and when he thinks that he’s occupied the superior position on a topic he’s like a dog with a fresh bone; he just won’t get off of it.  (Chuckle)  I find that last trait to be a bit uncomfortable at times but that’s just because I try to go out of my way to avoid arguments and he doesn’t seem to mind when conversation becomes argumentative.  I’ve told you all this because the response he got was entirely unreasonable.  They could have had a great conversation about the topic but the hostile commenter was only interested in degrading my friend.  If we analyze his statement he seems to insinuate that my friend can’t read, thus the need for audio books.  Apparently he is also uneducated, which is why he needs the audio books, and lastly his vocation is scorned by the use of the term “little truck.”  Where are the Minke whales in that?

When “social” interaction “goes south” it usually follows two paths.  The first path is the one I just demonstrated where somebody’s intelligence is questioned.  The second path is where somebody’s mental health is questioned.  This is how terms like “libtard” have sprung to life.  There is a “priest” of the Conservative religion (talk show host) named Mark Levin who claims that liberalism is a mental disease and he’s serious.  That’s the problem, that people who use these pejoratives are too often actually serious.

How can we really have a conversation if you think that I am unintelligent for no other reason other than I disagree with you?  Isn’t that more than just a little arrogant on your part?  Recently, I was trying to have a conversation about the historical ties between conservatism and racism as evidenced by the conservative wing of the old Democratic Party and its support for preserving the country as founded; a slave owning country.  It ended because my sanity was brought into question.  The person I was attempting to converse with is an old friend who I consider dear and he has a really good sense of humor so I don’t think he was trying to insult me but when you make a statement like “when you come to your senses” you have essentially ended the conversation because you are telling me that you can’t take my thoughts seriously because I am not in my right mind.  Why am I out of my mind?  Simply because I don’t agree with your position?   So, this is the proverbial “state of the union.”  This is where we are at on social media as an American culture in 2017.  People can’t have conversations because anyone who doesn’t agree with each other’s current point of view is either unintelligent or they are crazy.  (Chuckle)  Enter Jesus…

What if we were more like Jesus?  My belief is that Jesus is un-offend-able and I am going to justify that belief shortly.  However, I do believe that Jesus is offensive but not because he goes out of his way to offend people.  He’s offensive because of who he is; what he stands for; and what he claims about himself.  When somebody says about themselves, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me” you’re going to upset a lot of people who follow other religions or no religion at all.  You’re going to make them cranky because you are basically telling them that they are 1) on the wrong path, 2) following a false belief system, and 3) embracing death so that they will not spend eternity with Father God once they pass out of mortal life on planet Earth.  Obviously Jesus is not the author of the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” (Chuckle)  This is why the scriptures refer to him as the “rock of offense.”

For this is contained in Scripture:  “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”  This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”

Jesus does not go out of his way to offend people; they just naturally take offense because of who he is.  There’s not a thing he can do about it just like there is nothing we can do about it when people are offended by the positions we hold in a conversation.  Sometimes you are going to offend people for no other reason other than you are who you are and you believe what you believe.  Lacking the ability to converse, many people are going to respond by defaulting to insulting your intelligence or calling you crazy.  You are just going to have to deal with it but it’s preferable that we respond like Jesus which brings me to my belief that he is un-offend-able.

The Christian scriptures teach us that God himself is the very definition of what love is.

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”  ~ John the Apostle

God is love and Paul the Apostle goes on to teach us a few things about it: love “does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.”  In short, Love is not offend-able.  It makes perfect sense if you put it into context.  How can you offend somebody who 1) already knows all of your junk (sin) past, present, and future, and 2) still loves you despite it to the point that they were willing to sacrifice themselves to save you?  He’s not going to be easily angered because of your junk because He IS love.  He’s also not going to keep a record of every time you’ve wronged him because that’s not how love operates, according to Paul.

God has gone through a lot of trouble to create a pathway to redemption through Jesus.  Do you really think that your junk is more powerful than His love for you and his desire for relationship with you?  If your answer to that question is an erroneous “yes” I ask you to pause for a moment and behold the man hanging on the cross.   Turn your eyes upon Jesus, the man of sorrows, despised and forsaken of men.  Beaten and broken without right cause.  Look full into his wonderful face, marred beyond recognition due to the whipping and humiliating abuse he suffered before they nailed him to the “tree.”  Every lash was received out of love for you.  He volunteered for this, the Passover lamb who allowed himself to be broken and slain for the sins of all people.  Do not turn your eyes away from this gruesome scene.  Instead, push your way through the crowd and get as close as you can so you can look up into those weary and sullen eyes and behold the love of God for you.  You will not see a trace of anger in those eyes.  He was not sent into the world to judge you but to save you.  Love drove him to do it.  He drove himself to do it because He is love.  As you drink in the weight on the face of the crucifying Christ looking down at you from the cross, the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace, just as the old refrain states.  Your offenses are no more powerful than his redemptive love, than the darkness is more powerful than the sunlight.  “If you love Me, you will obey me” is not a scriptural command, it’s a statement of cause and effect.  To the degree that you are able to comprehend his immense love for you, you will respond in love, and out of that love will spring obedience to His will for your life.  The tree grows from the root and all Christians are to be rooted and grounded in love.

Can a city on a hill be hidden? Neither can the light of God in you be hidden no matter how hard you try.  You are going to cause offense to other people in this life.  That is a given but let it be because of who you are, not because of how you behave.  Be patient and kind, reasonable, not dismissive and insulting to people you disagree with.  Lay hold of the hem of the robe of the un-offend-able Jesus.  Hold on for dear life because people will go out of their way to push your buttons.  The insults start at the point where the thinking stops.  Do not respond in like kind.  These are classic “what would Jesus do?” moments to be cherished because we are being given the opportunity to manifest the nature of Christ.  It is much easier to strike back than to turn your face to offer the other cheek after having received a hearty slap.  Too often in life I have chosen the former rather than the latter, but 2017 is not our time to stumble but our time to shine on the hill.  So shine.

A friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world” which I am flattered by because I am much less than that.  Having said that, if you enjoyed my writing I invite you to scroll to the very bottom of this page where there is a button labeled “Follow”.   If you press that button you will receive a notification whenever this blog is updated with new posts.  Thank you for reading.  



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