Real faith – the dirt under your fingernails, hanging out in prisons, and eating Pad Thai and Fu-Fu kind is messy. Not only is it messy, but it’s difficult and offensive to some. And that’s the way it should be! When I talk about offensive faith I right away want to differentiate between offensive and abusive faith. There’s no place for discrimination and hatred in the Christian faith! It’s not about emotional blackmail and slander – that’s not at all what Jesus intended when He said He had come to bring a sword rather than peace. BUT, Christ knew His message was offensive nonetheless. His response? If anyone is offended by Me, he will be offended before My Father. In other words if you’re going to be my friend let’s hang out regardless of if I’m cool and what other people think of us being together.
Have you ever spent time in your local public (or even private, for that matter) high school? It’s an awkward and dangerous place to be. It’s full of such gossip and hate. People are constantly bad mouthing their so-called friends behind their backs. That’s not cool. At all. Especially not in a friendship. How can you trust someone when they’re nice to your face, but telling lies when you’re not there? GROW UP! What’s even worse, though, is the whole popularity thing that creeps into the school. It seems to be embedded in the very walls, the very fibres of the building. It’s incredible what high schoolers will do. What morals they will compromise just to fit in and be in the insider crowd. It’s a scary thought! Who should I not hang out with? I’m not going to be friends with that weird, socially awkward girl because then I’ll lose my status. The funny thing is that year after year I hear people my age (who only graduated from high school between 3-5 years ago) say that they don’t keep in touch with A SINGLE PERSON from high school and if they do it’s a Facebook kind of friendship, not a deep, mutually edifying one. Those were the popular kids! That saddens me. Some of my best friends and strongest ministry partners who I trust with everything are from my high school days. Why? Because I chose to value friendships over popularity. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t decently liked. I was on student council for 2 years. But my priorities lay in things that today I view as more important.
Now here comes another question – have you ever dated? When you are madly in love with a guy or girl they become your entire world. You think about them constantly and want the very best for them. You are so obsessed with them that you no longer care what anyone else says – you just want to be with them! You aren’t offended by them, you really want to show them off!
The kicker is that Jesus is our best friend and our Romancer and yet we can become so easily ensnared by being offended by His teachings. Think about it for a moment, if you are offended by your boyfriend’s ideas why would you keep going out with him?
In my church history class a topic of great discussion this semester has been whether the church has become too soft. Whether we focus too much on grace and mercy and not enough on justice.
Many North American churches have fallen into this trap of being politically correct 100% of the time. Friends, I’m not saying we should be rude or hostile and I’m not advocating for abandoning people’s emotional preferences, but the Gospels are not politically correct! Jesus said it wasn’t right to throw crumbs to the dogs. That was a pretty off-handed statement at the time! We are so enraptured with accepting everyone that morals have become a personal preference with no measuring stick. The foundations have been demolished. We have taken the Christ out of Christianity and replaced it with our own viewpoints of thinking (very arrogantly) that we know better than God. It has ceased to be Christianity since Jesus is no longer at the center and simply becomes an “ianity”. A human “ianity” at that.
Our culture is almost to the point where we can no longer call sin a sin. If we try to talk about what is morally acceptable we are labelled as being judgmental, and Christians are not to judge. So because we are not rooting out the weeds and instead are letting them grow up among the flowers, our garden is being choked by thorns and thistles so it hardly even resembles a garden anymore. It’s a mess.
May I make a controversial statement? If someone does not describe themselves as a passionate follower of Christ, they don’t need to live by God’s standards. They are free to do as they please and we shouldn’t expect them not to get drunk constantly or smoke pot. But the moment they have chosen to live the Christian life, they have signed in to a new working arrangement. They are under a new contract. Under new management. So those of us who have been at the job longer are responsible for training them and showing them the ropes! Paul tells us that if we see a brother or sister sinning those of us who are spiritually mature should confront them in love. The “in love” part is the most challenging. We can still accept them, hold a high regard for them, and do everything in our power to help them resist the temptation. We don’t ever lose our love and care for them. In fact, it’s because we love them so much that we don’t passively look on while they destroy their spiritual lives! It’s like the mother who doesn’t let the toddler take the cookies right from the oven. She isn’t being mean, she’s looking out for him so he can truly enjoy the treat without getting hurt!
We all sin. Every single one of us misses the mark regularly. We aren’t sharp shooters. And that’s ok. God forgives, but that doesn’t mean we get to keep living in our sin with no consequences. There are consequences to our free will even though God doesn’t harbour bitterness or hate towards us. Also, always remember that as long as there is a struggle we haven’t given in. As long as we keep fighting we are doing well. But when we give up, when we stop taking care of the garden, that’s when it becomes a mess.
So refuse to let political correctness rule your life. Talk about hard hitting controversial topics! Discuss what sin really is with your congregation or youth group without worrying so much that you are judging. To judge someone really means that you look down on their behaviour so much that you detest them, exclude them, and say bad things about them. IT DOES NOT MEAN showing genuine concern for behaviour contrary to God’s Word and helping them improve, correct, and replace it with something far better. The Bible says that we will know people by their fruits. If you are a mango tree and are producing thorns and thistles in place of mangoes what does that say about you? It shows we aren’t alive for Christ. What types of fruit are you bearing today?