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June 21, 2013

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Grace is offensive to a large part of the Church. Grace offends. Grace offends Justice. Grace offends Law. In the Word's Corporeal we find the freaks and the bastards of the world pushing to get as near to Grace Himself as possible, unafraid. And we find the lawyers -- the experts on right and wrong -- pushing to get as much distance between Him and themselves as possible. They unearth shame in Grace’s offensive proximity to the freaks and the bastards. “Doesn’t He know who they are, what they do?” It is our testimony of His rescue. And it is His Ransom. These two. That is the first Cup. Until that wine pours in, the skins will burst……….

Boy I don't know about this one Brother Wallace. I agree that the Biblical mandate includes not adding things into our "message" (i.e., actions, lifestyle, words, etc.) that would be an intentional obstacles, but at the same time I think the Bible clearly indicates that the gospel is an affront to sinners, and no matter what we do to "soften the blow" as it were, we will always be met with either hostility or indifference unless the Holy Spirit work inside a person to regenerate them to saving faith. Conversely, when the Holy Spirit works inside of a person to regenerate them, then there is nothing that we can do in our own power, whether that be taken as offensive or an attempt to remove obstacles, that could affect that.

I think we have two examples in the book of Acts as our guide to this, and I think that perhaps these examples would be contrary to your article? The first example that comes to mind is when Paul visits Athens: sure, he starts out by identifying for them the "unknown god", which a lot of people mis-characterize as Paul "contextualizing" into the culture of that city, but in fact if you read Paul's words to them, he ends by telling them basically that they are ignorant, and that even though God has heretofore overlooked that ignorance out of His mercy, He now commands everyone to repent in avoidance of the day of judgement. Instead of Paul "contextualizing", he actually ends up doing the equivalent of what you describe your "picketers" as doing.

The second example is that of Stephen before the Sanhedrin. Boy, if Stephen were around today he would almost certainly get pulled aside and "counselled" as to how he should tone down his message so as to not offend people. I mean, he basically stared down his accusers and called them a bunch of "stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts;" and then they killed him for it.

I write all of this to say that I am extremely wary when I hear people start talking in the manner in which you've written. I think it's clear that you have a heart for Christ, and I'm sure there is nothing but pure motives behind it, but I'm also equally sure that this type of mentality is probably where a lot of these seeker-sensitive social clubs posing as churches started out as well...and the result they've demonstrated is exactly what you indicate that you want to avoid: sacrifice of the gospel message.

Just because the gospel is offensive doesn't mean we need to be. Let the gospel do the work of offending, not the evengelist.

Great piece, J. This is why I think 40 Days for Life and sidewalk counselors should lose the signs.

We had an interested interaction with some awful street preachers in Fresno, including several failed attempts to interact with them and then finally some success. In case you're interested: http://joshbrahm.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/what-we-can-learn-from-hateful-street-preachers

I can't seem to find my comment, so I'll try again. I would strongly disagree with Josh's 40 Days for Life remark. Wallace is citing cases where the "language of protest" may not be appropriate, but where is it more appropriate than in a context where we are speaking against a specific evil?

This is why I think 40 Days for Life and sidewalk counselors should lose the signs.

So, I guess one thing that might help me think about this out loud is to get to the root of the motivation behind how a particular person engages in evangelism. I'm not familiar with these particular groups, but if the motivation for them (or for the example J cited) is ultimately driven by "selfish ambition" (Phil. 1), for lack of a better way of putting it, then, yes, I think it's to the gospel's detriment. (i.e., if the motivation is to vent some type of anger in protest of a particular situation or condition, versus if the motivation is to simply share the gospel)

But if that's the manner in which the Lord has led a person to share the gospel and the only motivation is, as Paul says, to preach "Christ and him crucified," then I think we owe a more careful consideration before we start downplaying things such as these.

The reason these things are popping up in my brain is I'm doing a message next Sunday on Philippians 2:1-11, and in researching the context, I noticed for the first time that while Paul was prison, he specifically states that there were those going around preaching the gospel out of "selfish ambition." I think two things became clear to me upon thinking on that reference: first, by no means is Paul advocating that that should be the way to go. Second, he clearly indicates that God even uses those type of circumstances to work his plan of salvation, often times in spite of the person that might think they're really doing God's work...and for that he rejoices.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I just made any sense or not; I just think there's a connection there with things like this and what Paul wrote about in Philippians 1, and I don't know if I articulated it very coherently...I certainly don't think J or anyone else in these comments has demonstrated anything like what I mentioned, I just think it's something worth considering and something I wanted to clarify upon re-reading my original comment..

To follow up, I just found this on the 9marks web site, and I think maybe this articulates better some of what has been said here, and I think maybe this what J was saying...

We should labor to put no offense in front of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:1-23). This doesn’t mean that we get rid of preaching if our non-Christian friends don’t want to hear preaching. It does mean we should strip away any unnecessary, distracting, and potentially offensive cultural practices that can get in the way of the gospel.

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