There are some people in the world who seem to enjoy offending others. I won’t give you any examples, as you probably know some of these sorts of people yourselves. People at work cause offense, people on the radio or television, or people with YouTube channels or blogs, or something called ‘facebook’ or ‘twitter’…. I don’t think it is good to set out deliberately to offend people — that is, to have ‘offending people’ as your main reason for acting or speaking in certain ways. That sort of attitude is nasty. Giving offence in that sense is wrong.
Nevertheless, I do think that ‘taking offence’ can have its own problems. I mean, sometimes the truth can be offensive. By ‘truth’ I mean objective ‘outside-of-me’ reality; true-truth. And true-truth is particularly offensive to people who are wedded to the idea that ‘truth’ is what they make it to be. When people decide what is ‘ok’ for themselves; when people create their own moral universe (or choose for themselves one of many moral ‘universes’), true-truth will be terribly offensive to them.
Thinking about my last paragraph, and what the Bible say about human-beings in general, it seems to me that every human being (except Jesus Christ) has a problem with true-truth.
Jesus Christ, the only person ever to live a completely good life, could not help causing offence, but the fault was not his. The fault was with those who were offended by him.
Jesus did not come into the world to cause offense; rather he came deliberately to save his people from their sins. In this context, we might say that ‘sin’ is the practical out-workings of the attitude that we have a right to determine our own moral universe.
Jesus’ impeccably good life is a standing condemnation (there, I said it) of our habitually bad lives. When he spoke about our self-righteous religiosity (our determination to make of our own moral universes whatever we might want them to be), we are offended. We can’t help it. We don’t like our sins being labelled for what they really are. We are offended by the idea that we have wronged our Creator. We are offended by the truth that we actually have a Creator. We are offended by the idea that we need to be saved from ourselves and that the Creator (the one we offend by our sin) is the only one who can save us.
As a race, our thinking is completely messed up. But contrary to theories ancient and modern, education will not fix our poor thinking. Only grace will. By this I mean only the work of our Creator who came to us in the person of Jesus Christ can and will save. His work on behalf of sinful people alone saves them from sin and its unpleasant consequence.
When Jesus lived his sinless life, he lived it to replace the bad lives of sinners. When Jesus died on a cross — unjustly condemned by sinners as if he were the worse of sinners — he took the place of sinners who were justly condemned. He took their punishment for them. When Jesus came back to life from the dead, he showed that his life was in fact blameless, and he showed that the sins of sinners, which he bore, now no longer condemn. He paid their debt for them.
Jesus’ message is that anyone who trusts Him will be saved because those who trust him get the benefit of his good life, his death and his rising from the dead. A person who trusts Jesus is regarded by God as sinless. People who trust Jesus are regarded as having died for their sins and now have no case to answer. Those who trust Jesus will be raised to life again, never to die again, because Jesus is raised from the dead. In other words, because of Jesus, those who trust him don’t get what we all deserve but get what only Jesus deserves. In Jesus the love of God comes to sinful people like us.
Jesus is that one who gives sinners-like-us repentance. Repentance is a gracious gift from God. It is the change of mind we need. It enables us to see things as they really are; to see and embrace true-truth. It enables us to understand the good news about Jesus — who he is, what he has done, and what that means for us — and to trust ourselves to him. Jesus deals with our offence and cures our tendency to take offence at true-truth.