The Offensive Gospel

I understand that Christianity as a religion is offensive to a lot of people.  As an organized institution, we kind of suck sometimes.  I can’t possibly begin to profess to know whether each individual responsible for various types of meanness are “actually saved” or in a “real relationship with Jesus” or whatever.  But what I can say is that, at the very least, as a religion, we need a better marketing plan.

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Our ugly acts get the most airplay.  Whether it’s the abhorrent and ridiculous Westboro Baptist Church of Idiots, the Catholic Church’s pedophilia or the way the political right has completely hijacked the term “Evangelical” to the point I don’t want to be called one, our reputations have definitely taken a hit.  I sometimes wonder if the Holy Spirit isn’t face palming Himself in disgust.

Rightfully so, people who are not followers of Jesus get angry.  Take, for example, the story of this priest behaving badly at the funeral service of my friend Linda’s family member.  Wouldn’t you be offended?  Wouldn’t you want to tell the world that a so-called Christian wasn’t acting very Christianly? (I realized after I posted this originally that this reads as if my friend Linda’s family are not followers of Jesus.  I honestly have no idea if they are or not and did not mean to sound as if I were saying they are not.  They were, after all, having the service in a church — but only each of them individually can say what they believe.  I did not mean to speak for them.)

Of course, as a follower of Jesus I have witnessed more acts of grace and kindness than could fill a lifetime of Oprah Winfrey shows.  The love of Jesus has been shown to me over and over again through the body of Christ, and always right on time, too — in a way that solidifies my belief that He is living and breathing and cares deeply for every aspect of my life.

This is, for me, what it means to be a Christ follower: to be radically, passionately loved to such a measure as I could never repay.  To be completely indebted and yet not — to have a clean slate and a passionate lover of my soul.  To be unequivocally, completely, and graciously adored by the King of the Universe, the ultimate Victor.

But none of that gets on the 11 o’clock news.  And so people have a very good reason to hate us, or at least not like us very much.  And because they don’t like us very much, they have a great reason to not look at Jesus. They think when they see us, they are already seeing Him.

Still, it made me wonder.  If someone is willing to look past all the awful church-i-ness — and yes, all it takes is some willingness — why is this Jesus thing still so difficult? Once someone has gotten past all our junk — all our crappy humanity and meanness and yes, even our human sin (who said that word?) — and once they really look at Jesus, why are they still so offended?

What’s so offensive about the Gospel?  And why do we resist it?

I’ve been able to come up with a few reasons.  I am sure there are many more.

1. It’s freaking radical.

If my daughter, who is currently 8 but let’s pretend she’s a teenager, okay?  Let’s pretend she’s got some boy who seeks her out, who professes to love her unconditionally (even though she’s really nasty when she’s hungry and is super competitive), who hunts her down and then says, “Yo, I’ll die for you!” Well.  Let’s just say I might get a restraining order.  That kind of passion is a little in your face.  It’s a little overwhelming.  And in our human society, it’s often outright dangerous.  I’m not saying Jesus is a stalker, but still.  It’s a little weird.

2. It’s insulting.

Once I get past the whole Jesus was God who was born of a virgin bit, it’s a little insulting that He’d have to do something so radical as to die to cover my sins.  I mean, my sins aren’t that bad, are they?  I could understand that He might have to die for, like, a child molester (bastards!) or a murderer.  But what’s a little white lie on my taxes?  What’s the big deal if I covet my neighbor’s Audi?  Or that anger that burns in my chest every time I think about that time….I mean surely, all that should require is a little slap on the wrist, right?  On Jesus’s wrist, that is.  Don’t lump me in with the child molesters.  Don’t even lump me in with that idiot priest who was rude at a funeral. I’m a good person.  I have common decency after all.

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