Monday, January 30, 2012

God's Word Can be SO Offensive, Let's Just Edit It

This morning I read an article about certain Bible versions and translations editing how God is referred to so as not to offend Muslims.  Among other things, it edits out such things that would offend a Muslim such as referring to Jesus as the Son of God.  This is part of a long-standing yet troubling trend in the church, and it is our attempts to "help" God make his message less offensive.  The problem is that idea is not Scriptural.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV
Not only is not not Scriptural, but it is also not in the example of Jesus.
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us [His] flesh to eat?"  John 6:48-52 NKJV
Jesus says something very controversial.  He says that he is the bread of life.  He even says that in order to live forever, they must eat of the bread of life.  They really do not grasp what He is saying and assume He means that they should literally eat of His flesh.  There was great controversy and people were offended.  Did Jesus change His message? 
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard [this], said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?" John 6:53-61 NKJV
We can clearly see that He did not.  He did not try to explain it nor did He try to make it more palatable.  He knew of the controversy that was brewing with His words, yet He continued on with the message that the Father had given Him.  At this point, even some of his disciples started to complain.  Jesus asks if His message offended them.  Surely it did and surely now Jesus will begin to work to alleviate the offense, right?
"[What] then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [they] are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." From that [time] many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  John 6:62-66 NKJV
Jesus did not back away from His words except to say that His words are spirit.  He also brings up that some of those who are offended are ones that do not believe.  Again, He did not change His message to lessen the offense to the nonbelievers, but let His words stand.  As a consequence, many of His disciples walked away.  I am sure at this point, Jesus went after them to try to bring them back in and begin to work to reconcile their offense.
Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  John 6:67-69 NKJV
Instead of chasing after the ones who left, Jesus asked the ones who stayed if they wanted to leave as well.  Jesus was not one to change His message so as not to offend anyone or call them back if they had fallen away.  Of course, Peter tells the reason that those stayed who stayed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."   Such a beautiful phrase and such an amazing truth.  It also illustrates an important point, which is that if someone truly believes in Jesus, that person will have faith to stay even if the message gets hard to understand. 

We must not try to help God in our outreach to make his message more palatable to those who are offended.  You may bring more bodies into churches, but you are not winning any believers.  God never compromised His message and so we should never either.  His message will be an offense and for good reason.  Think about it, you are telling Muslims that their god is a false god and that their prophet was a false prophet.  It is going to be offensive.  For the Hindu, you are saying that all of their gods are false gods and that there is only one true God.  To the Buddhist, you are saying that Buddha was a liar or a victim of tragic deceit and currently resides in Hell.  To the atheist, you are telling him are her that they are entirely wrong to say that there is no God.  To the general "great-grandfather-in-the-sky" nebulous and common religion, you are saying that no matter how "good" they or their loved ones may have thought they were in this life, they are going to spend an eternity in Hell lest they receive Jesus. 

The Gospel is an offense because it is so uncompromising in its insistence that Jesus is the only way.  It leave no room for other faiths or beliefs nor does it allow for any other god.  It gives no way to earn your way into Heaven, but declares that only though faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can anyone be saved.  It takes any other belief other than a true faith in Jesus Christ and exposes it for the Hell-bound lie that it is.  That is going to cause offense. 

Finally, the Gospel is offensive because it permits salvation to those whom we may consider to be the worst of the worst.  It is hard to believe that a serial killer, child rapist and murderer, brutal tyrant, slave trader, or any other horrible person we can think of can also be forgiven through Jesus Christ.  It is even harder to believe in a faith that calls us to love those people and reach out to them with the Gospel.  So the Gospel is an offense not just in that it declares any other belief as wrong, but it is also an offense in that all can be saved. 

In the end, we must not try to help God by changing His message,  He knew what He was doing when He wrote His word and God have mercy on us should we ever think we know better and decide to change it.  Those who altered the Word to make it less offensive will have to stand before God and explain why they thought they knew better.  I hope to never be in that position.  God's word is an offense.  The Gospel is an offense.  That offensive message changed the world when it was first proclaimed and continues to change hearts to this very day.  We need to proclaim that message, not hide from it.  Do we really think we know better than God?  Or are just scared to face the consequences of having an offense message?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  Romans 1:16 NKJV

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