Saturday, January 21, 2023

On the offense of truth. . .

So many Christian leaders try to get the pulse on the times in which we live to define how to approach people and the world that it has become, well, normal.  We poll our way into everything else, why not into doctrine and truth and worship and life in Christ?  As our politicians pander to the self-interest groups in search of votes, our religious leaders seem to pander to the same in search of legitimacy and relevancy.  The end result of such a pursuit trying to avoid the offense of truth is to end up with no truth at all.  Thus does Christian Lite lead inexorably to no Christian at all.  Every Christian tradition has its naysayers against doctrine and practice as if people were being kept away from God by these things.  Therefore the path forward is always, in the minds of the progressive, openness, diversity of opinion, co-existence of competing claims and truths, and a less is more strategy on just about everything.  Give people less to be offended by and they will not be offended.  Yeah, right.

While we are fearful of making people uncomfortable by strong truth, God is concerned about their eternal salvation.  While we are afraid of what people might think of us, we seem to be somewhat unconcerned about what God thinks.  While we are worried about being cast aside by a world marching to its own end, God is lamenting how easily we cast aside the facts of Scripture for the imagination of myth and legend tuned to our emotions instead of facts.

Why do we buy into the lie that people love God but can't stand the Church?  The offense is not the sins of the religion or the religious but always Christ.  The world is not put off by the idea that there is truth or doctrine or a deity.  The offense is always about sin, about the glorification of a life that ends in death, and about the idea that we are not in charge of our destiny.  The offense is always about the choice of victimhood over responsibility and the demand for rights over the willingness to serve.  The offense is always about the unwillingness to be shamed by what is evil and the willingness to glory in what can only end in death.  The center of this all is Christ.  He comes not to befriend us but to save us -- thus defining friendship in a radical and abrupt way.  He comes not to comfort us in our sins but to strip them away from us so that we might be holy.  He comes not to make this life richer but to expose its mortal flaw so that we might share in the riches of His life forever.  Christ is always the offense and He knows it and has said it yet we think the problem is us.  How self-centered are we?  How self-important can we get?

Of course, the folks outside the Church love to pick at those inside and inflate their egos to believe they are the cause either for them becoming Christian or the reason why they are not.  The problem is not a Christ who is appealing to the masses but a Church that has messed it up so bad that people won't join it.  The problem is always Christ -- not the failings of the Christians even though they are many.  Christ is the offense, the stumbling stone.  He says so Himself.  The prophets said it before Him.  So why do we keep crawling into the same pothole of self-importance presuming that our goodness makes people believe and become part of the community of faith or if they don't we must have done something wrong?  This is, by the way, the presumption of half the parachurch organizations out there who want to help us fix ourselves so that we will grow.

Luther said it.  Scripture teaches it.  Do we believe it?  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts...  Truth is always a double edged sword, a stumbling block, and Christ IS the truth (as well as the way and the light!).  It is about time that we Lutherans admit that faith is God's gift, given by the Spirit working through the means of grace.  We cannot speak for other traditions but it is pretty clear that however great our virtues or however great our faults, Christ is the Word doing the work by the Spirit.  He is the cornerstone for those who believe and the stumbling stone for those who do not.

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