Speaking Truth and Giving Offense

Luke 11:45-46 – 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

Sometimes the thing that you learn from in a passage is not exactly the passage’s teaching point. In Luke 11, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their hypocrisy. But the content of the reproof is not what got my attention this time. Instead, the method of Jesus, particularly in light of recent conversations about tone, is on my mind.

In the middle of this conversation, lawyers, experts in the law, told Jesus that his rebuke of the Pharisees offended them, insulted them. What Jesus did in response was to double-down, directing his next series of reproofs specifically against the lawyers. They tell Jesus, “You’ are offending us.” Jesus responds, “Woe to you.”

One of the dangers of our present culture is that many see offending others as doing them harm. Thus, many believers refuse to directly speak out against sin. Instead of pronouncing the kind of woes that Jesus spoke against the Pharisees, many hide behind a series of qualifications, of prefacing remarks about how loving we really are, before hinting at the possibility that certain acts are destructive and forbidden by God. Many believe that they can soft-sell condemnation, look more loving, and draw crowds to the church. They fail to recognize that, if the church truly preaches the gospel, either people will be actually saved, or they will hate the message. After all, the gospel is either the aroma of life to life or death to death.

I think there is certainly a difference in being, for lack of a better term, a jerk and in being honest. We should be able to speak to others with class, respect, and civility. But as we tell the truth, we will offend others with the truth; there is just no avoiding it. Jesus could not have been Jesus and ignore the sin of the lawyers. The Savior was never going to say, “O, I’ve offended you? I’m sorry, just keep on doing what you’re doing.” That would not have been holy.

No, I do not wish to be ugly in my social interactions. I surely want, if I must offend others, to offend them with the content of the message and not its delivery. But, if I am going to be a faithful preacher of the word, I will have to say things that, no matter how I would try to package it, our modern culture will hate. I cannot refuse to tell the truth simply because somebody says that the truth insults them. And, thanks be to God, if I stick with the gospel and do not find ways to take ugly cheap shots, I’m going to look like Jesus in the process.