When I was a boy preacher, I heard affirmations from congregants such as, “Preacher, you really stepped on my toes today!” This remark meant I’d either raised my voice or spoke forthrightly about known sins (known sins in that day were smoking and drinking).
Another phrase was “You shelled the corn today, preacher!” This comment meant essentially the same thing, though the implication was that the commenter thought I’d dressed down other people.
I know I offended many along the way. As George W. Bush famously said, “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.” I chided people when the church didn’t move more quickly than I thought, and once wrote a newsletter column suggesting Christians should avoid country music due to the “beer drinking and two-timing.” Oh, the impudence of young ministers, like me, who must learn grace, and sometimes learn the discipline of silence! Plus there wasn’t an ounce of gospel in those words.
Nowadays, I don’t hear from people wanting to be stepped on.
For example, a long-time Baptist deacon said to me, “I wish I could understand the Bible. It’s a book of mystery to me.” Another person said, “I pray but nothing happens. I wonder why.” And yet another said, “So many bad things happen to me. God must be angry with me.”
I think modern worshippers are beset with so much stress and so many questions that a loving pastor must try to encourage them in their faith.
But shouldn’t the gospel be offensive? Erik Raymond in an article on Christianity.com wrote, “The gospel is offensive because it unseats self from the throne of the heart and establishes God as King.” When people consider the claims of Christ over our sin and selfishness the truth can be offensive. It cuts across the grain. No question about this.
But I don’t think the scripture calls Christians to be offensive. Robert Schuller used to point out that Jesus never called a sinner “a sinner.” It was the self-righteous religious people he called sinners. He was always tender with broken people.
And the Apostle Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 10: “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
Paul said he strove to be a loving vessel of God’s truth. As is often said, people must get past Christians before they can get to God. And we must be sure we’re not stumbling blocks through angry tirades or offering judgments that belong only to the Great Judge of the Universe.
Reflections is a weekly devotional feature written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.