Is being offensive always wrong?

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.

1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 1)

Part 1

It might do to recall where we’ve come from. The Lord Jesus Christ changes everything:

Peter wrote to strangers and pilgrims who had lost everything, yet have everything in Christ.

  • New birth/new life because of the resurrection of Christ
  • Un-losable inheritance kept in heaven for them.
  • Once not a people but now the people of God
  • Called to do good in the world (making Christ known) even if they suffer for it.
  • Christ as suffered for them, they willingly endure suffer for him.
  • Submitting to lawful authority is a big part of Christian’s way of life.
  • Jesus’ people can do with confidence because Lord Jesus Christ is in control of everything.

Peter now spells out a few more implications of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus changes everything – particularly how we are to think.

We are to be dead to old ways, alive to new ways (Rom 6 and Eph. 6), always grounded on Gospel.

  • Christ’s death for us means ‘putting old ways’ to death.
  • The Christian’s hope cannot be dented by mocking, or death or judgement.
  • Our present suffering is not forever, so we can use our remaining time well.

Christ’s death means putting old ways to death:

Therefore, since Christ has suffering for us in the flesh, we also should arm ourselves with this same mind, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has been released from sin.

To suffer in the flesh means to die – the reference here is particularly to the death of Jesus Christ.

‘Has ceased’ with regard to sin: This doesn’t mean the our personal death deals with our own sin.

Rather, Jesus’ work on the cross is finished as far as our sin is concerned. When He suffered in the flesh, his people are regarded as having suffered (i.e. died) for their sin.

Jesus died in our place the death we deserve for our bad attitude to God and neighbour.

  • This happened outside of us. Think of it this way: My great-grandfather come to Australia from Ireland in 1877. He acted outside of me – before I was born – but his action resulted in me being born as a citizen of Australia 82 years later. In a similar way, Jesus Christ acted once in history but his act brings benefits to people who weren’t even born then.
  • This happened for us.  By trusting Jesus, we are regarded as having suffered in the flesh (died). The benefits are:
    • The Law’s claim on us at an end – the truth that ‘the soul that sins shall die’ does not apply to Christians in an ultimalte sense.
    • We are forgiven
    • We have friendship with God
    • We have everlasting life
  • We have a new citizenship – We ought to live now as Christ’s people.
    • We must first be a Christian in order to live like a Christian. (Christianity is NOT simply MORALITY.)
    • We died with Christ, we are raised with Christ, we now live for Christ.

My father-in-law came originally from England. He became an Australian citizen, but he had it both ways whenever there were sporting competitions between the two countries. A Christian is not to have it both ways – we are to follow Christ.

As Christians, we still have the sinful attitudes that we inherited from Adam who rebelled. Like him, we retain rebel thoughts and actions.

Dealing with our former deadness is a life long thing. William Haslam (1818-1905) was a minister in the Church of England for 10 years before he became a Christian. He recognised that there were habits that he had developed during his non–Christian life that had to be dealt with. He knew that he had been saved by Christ, but he had remaining sinful habits. It was, to him, as if he were like Lazarus — the man whom Jesus brought back to life from the dead. As he walked out of the tomb, Lazarus had to get rid of his grave-clothes, the cloth that was still wrapped around his now living body. Haslam regarded his remaining sin as grave-clothes that need to be put off. I think it a helpful picture to think on.

In Jesus Christ, we become a new creation.

  • God treats us a new way because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in our place,
  • We begin to think and act in new ways. We want to do things God’s way.

Arm yourselves with this same mind…

  • Repentance is a change of mind. It is a gift of God’s kingly love.
  • Our initial repentance (when we first came to trust Jesus) changed our attitude to God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
    • We once rejected God and good news with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
    • We now embrace God and good news with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
  • On going repentance changes our attitude to everything else because of the Good news of Jesus Christ.
  • We are to ARM ourselves  – put on the ARMOUR of the Gospel of Christ
    • We have a spiritual battle on our hands
    • Not to gain life, but
    • to live our lives as reasonable responses to God’s mercy.
    • Not armed with guns or bullets, but with the love and forgiveness of the Gospel
  • Many things conspire potentially to misdirect our lives as God’s children.
    • Our former attitude to life
    • The people who knew us before we became Christians.
  • We need to arm our minds against attacks from these two sources.

Part 2

1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 2)

Part 2

Our own former attitude to life – the ‘old man’ referred to by Paul:

The one who has suffered in the flesh is released from sin to the end that [he] no longer lives the rest of his time in the flesh for the desires of men, but for the will of God. For sufficient of our past time of life [has been devoted] to doing the will of the nations, having gone on in immorality, lusts, excessive wine, drunken parties, binge-drinking and wicked idolatries.

Peter gives a list here to encapsulate a mind-set that Christians are to fight against.

Old habits die hard. A violin teacher said “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it make permanent.”

Our old ways of thinking and acting were vain attempts to ignore the true God and avoid our duty to him and others.

  • Immorality – misuse of sex, lying, stealing, disobedient to parents etc.
  • Lusts – wanting things (anything) obsessively
  • Drunkenness — drug culture of any kind – attempt to block out conviction
  • Making a god in our own image – like drug culture, only a ‘spiritual’ rather than a physical trip.
    • Not necessarily a physical object
    • Ezekiel talks of idols set up in our hearts, which is often expressed even within ‘Christian’ circles by a ‘Jesus’ unlike the real Jesus who is presented to us in the Bible.

Life had been all about ‘us’.  These old ways of ours are still with us to some extent.

  • Subdued — their real power broken by Jesus Christ, Yes!
  • But these old ways have a residual power. They can still draw us off course for a time.

We must arm our minds against them. How?

Remember that Christ suffered in the flesh for us.

Jesus has fought our sin to the death & has won forgiveness & eternal life for us.

We too, are to fight our old attitudes to the death (Rom 6).

The other influence that can derail us from following Christ as we should comes from people who knew what we were like before we were Christians.

In this, they think it strange that you know longer run with them in the same unruly excesses, speaking evilly of you.

This pressure to go on with friends, family, work colleagues as if Jesus changes nothing can be difficult to resist:

  • Old paths might still be ‘fresh’ for the Christian and the temptation strong
  • Desire not to hurt feelings is and ought to be with us, but ought not deter us from living a new way
  • Desire not to give the impression that we are ‘superior’ or the ‘judge’ (we are neither superior to anyone nor are we their judges)
  • But, 1 john 1 – if and when we mess up, we still have Christ and his forgiveness.

Nevertheless, living as a Christian in these situations can be powerful, if our minds are armed:

  • New way of life (not morose but happy) – we have been set free from sin and death
  • Living out new attitudes in a humble, gentle way
  • When we mess up in these things (appearing superior, for example) there is the  opportunity to ask our family, friends, colleagues to forgive us.
  • Opportunities to give a reason for hope that is in you – tell the good news.

This last point is important as the issues are serious.

Part 3

1 Peter 4:1-11 (Part 3)

Part 3

 The Gospel comes to people under sentence of death

These [who speak evilly of you] shall give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason, then, the Gospel was also preached to those who are now dead so that, they might be judged in the flesh according to men, but live by the spirit according to God.

We should remember that the final judgement is in the hands of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt 7 and 25)

He will acquit the living (those made alive in Christ) i.e. Christians

  • Not because we are better than others,
  • But because he has acted for us – he has made us alive.

Jesus Christ will condemn the dead — those who go on in their rebellion, who reject the mercy now offered by Christ)

  • No one has an excuse – Rom 1
  • It is what all people worked hard to get.
  • It is what justice demands.

Those who keep on rejecting the mercy of Christ try to mess with the message and our heads

  • Judged according men in the flesh .
    Death comes to all people, Christians included. Some in Peter’s day pointed this out in an effort to shake the hope of Christians. ‘Look,’ they’d say, ‘Your friend/Mother/child trusted Jesus, but they still died. Where is the evidence for life that you talk about. What sort of hope is this Christianity!’
  • Alive by the spirit according to God.
    What Peter is pointing out is that reality does not consist only in what we can see here and now. Peter saw Jesus die on the cross, and then saw him alive again three days later. We have the assurance, from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that when Christians die, they go immediately to be with Jesus and have eternal life with him.

The main point here is: The death that comes to all cannot mess with the Christian’s hope.

As we are able, we should tell the message of hope to anyone and everyone, particularly to our enemies. We are to live in light of the message, the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ as there are eternal consequences at stake.

People of hope live in hope

Finally, Peter reminds Christians that their struggle of this life is not forever. The consummation of all things is near.

But the end of all things draws near. Therefore, but sober and watchful in prayer for all, having earnest love for each other, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. Just as each one has received a spiritual gift, serve one another with it as good stewards of the many-sided grace of God. If one speaks, as the oracles of God; if one serves, with the strength God gives so that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever, Amen.

When Peter talks of the end, he is talking about the end of this world-age — from the fall of Adam to the return of Jesus. Peter points Christians to the new heavens and the new earth, where there will be no more sin, or tears, or suffering or death.

In short, he is reminding us that Christians have an eternal hope.  We can live now, and must live now, in the light of that hope.

We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain (it is already kept for us in heaven).

Think like people with hope, Peter says

  • Be sober
    • This is not about being grim or gruff, but
    • Encouragement to  think clearly — don’t be muddle-headed about your hope
    • Be watchful in prayer
      • Pray
      • Pray for things Christ urges us to pray for, namely, the spread of good news, and for the basic needs of people, leaders,  family, friends and enemies)
      • Keep on praying
      • Love one another
      • Forgive one another – love covers a multitude of sin (Peter’s question to Jesus Matt 18 – how many times am I to forgive? Just keep doing it.)
      • Use your abilities to serve
        • Born with abilities – Spirit given (even to non-Christians)
        • Use them to help others
        • The word –
          • Treat with it respect
          • Pass it on as received – no messing with the message
        • Other ways of serving
          • Administrating, cleaning, befriending, feeding, Inviting, and
          • Hospitality, in the context of being pilgrims and strangers in a hostile world.  Sharing without grumbling. This is not talking just about a cup of tea occasionally; these were people in desperate circumstances who needed to help one another in substantial ways.

The purpose in all this is?

  • That our God and Saviour Jesus Christ is to be known, loved, served and respected.
  • That all good is to be attributed to him.
  • That He is to be thanked for it.
  • God is to be praised if you are a Christian, because you are one only because of God’s goodness, not yours.

That is Good News.