Holiness begins as offensive to those living in the land of darkness.
When a person first encounters Jesus, there is a high potential for offense. The pure truth of this statement lies in the fact that He is pure, holy, full of light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. We, however, even though we bear the image of our Creator, have become unholy, full of darkness, and love the things of this world. From this moment of revelation begins a stirring, confronting, cutting, yet embracing, loving, inviting presence.
What does the sinner do with Jesus? Jesus invites, offers, and extends grace, living water, and the offer to be born again, but there's this problem of the darkness... Will we renounce it, forsake it, repent of all wicked ways and walk away, just as if we were getting married and said the words, "and forsaking all others..."?
That's the real question: Will we forsake our darkness for eternal light?
But what about love? Where does that fit in? Aren't we just supposed to love people and shut up about the offensive part of the gospel? Fear of offending and fear of being offended close the door to what lies beyond the initial offense... an inexpressible joy. How did Jesus get past the offense of the cross? It was the joy set before Him.
Jesus lived His life so uniquely different from us today. Those who only embrace Jesus the "grace giver" refuse to see Him as the One who had no place to lay His head, lived under accusation and scrutiny, remained sexually celibate and had no descendants, got up early to pray, sought no earthly acclaim or honor, and brought His whole being under submission to His Father in Heaven. Why? Greater joy.
Could it be that those who say to the sinner, "come as you are," yet refuse to say, "follow me" somehow have not seen behind the veil of this world to the greater joy? The joy of the eternal should cause the sinner to develop a distaste for all sin. And those in the church, having seen such a great light and knowing such a great joy, should patiently, yet earnestly urge those who cling to their sinful and earthly ways, to see the Kingdom of Jesus Christ for what it truly is... a gem, a great prize, an eternal glory. When people see the glory, they'll lay it all down gladly for Jesus.
I'm offended. You're offended. We're all offended by Jesus who, at times, must say to us, "get behind me Satan!" just as He said to Peter. If I want to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant," how can I exclude myself from "get behind me Satan"? If I wand heaven, how can I be free from forsaking hell. If I want light, how can I still embrace darkness.
The key is greater joy. The love of Jesus is designed to draw us in, but never stops there. Love must see the work in us through to completion.
Let it be so in me today, Lord Jesus.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.
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