The gospel is offensive.
I’ve known this for awhile, but in a much more abstract way. In the back of my mind, I thought it was because Christianity–loving God, loving your neighbor–was offensive. It confused me, because this was my life standard, and it was working out pretty well. Live like that, and people love you. “Nice” becomes the most frequent adjective applied to your person; people are generally nice to you, as well.
So what becomes of Jesus’ promise? “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first,” He said. “Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you” (John 15:18, 20b). If people love us, are we doing something wrong? It depends on what comes next. Being “nice” was never offensive, and usually no one minds if you claim to be a Christian. Most will let you reason that your niceness comes from your faith, and that’s usually all the reasoning that people want. However, sometimes they dig a little deeper. And deeper is where one runs headlong into the gospel.
My Friend Was Offended
The Physics Bible Study (PBS) at the University of Texas at Austin recently discussed Romans 8, a beautiful distillation of the gospel. I like Romans 8 because it is all about what I have been freed from and released into. It is a beautiful and intellectual passage about what Jesus’ death on the cross actually meant for us. Romans 8 is all about who we are in Christ as friends and beloved children.
Turns out, Romans 8 is offensive.
I found this out from a non-believing friend who attended. He informed me later that studying that passage had not been a pleasant experience and that my happy and expository comment–that my default is no longer sin (Romans 8:9)–was “hurtful” because of the implications for his own life. In short, he was very unhappy with our decision to study Romans 8, and I spent the bulk of the conversation trying to fathom why he was taking it out on me if it was Romans that had done most of the offending. Was I supposed to rewrite Romans?
But It’s What I Signed Up For
Then came the reminder from Romans 8 itself:
“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17).
This is what we signed up for. The offense of the gospel is not our fault, but when we said yes to Jesus, we said yes to that sort of blame. We accepted the hatred that is aimed at him. We agreed to share in His glory…and His suffering.
Offended, But Affected
There are so many cool stories coming out of the Natural Sciences Missional Community, of which PBS is a subset, these days. There are also some hard ones though, like this. However, Jesus is moving, very clearly. He is drawing hearts to Himself. If people are hostile, it means they are not complacent. If they are offended, it means they are affected. I know that my God does not give up on people–ever. So neither do I.
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (Romans 12:12)
Melody Valadez is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, where she majors in physics and co-leads the College of Natural Sciences Missional Community under the guidance of Campus Renewal. She is also the author of Those Who Trespass, a novel for young adults that blurs the line between secular and Christian fiction.