“Watch your eyes.” is a common phrase in our home. Most of the time it means I’m awake and turning on the lights in the bedroom. It’s a warning to my wife that it’s about to get bright in the room and she should cover her eyes until I turn the lights off again. It’s a kindness. Something we do for each other. After all, nobody likes it when their eyes are adjusted to the dark and someone turns on a light.
I’m certain it’s happened to you too. You’re in a dark room, watching a movie, and suddenly someone turns on the lights. We all react the same way; “squinty disgust” I call it. It’s painful. Those first few seconds as your eyes adjust to the light. You don’t want the light on. “Turn it back off! It hurts my eyes”
What’s that old saying? “Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease”?
The Bible talks about life in terms of light and dark. Ephesians 5:8 and John 8:12 in particular refer to our lives before becoming Christians as being in darkness and after as being in light. For those of us who may have come to faith a little later on in our lives, we may remember how blinding that light was initially. As Christians we are called to “shine our lights” into the world. I think, sometimes, in our earnestness to share the joy we have found in Christ, we overdo it and end up being counter-productive as a result. Sometimes the cure, at least, seems worse that the disease.
Jesus spoke pretty clearly about not hiding our lights (Luke 11:33), and I’m not at all advocating that we do that, but some Christians like to share their light by shining a 1’000’000 candlepower super-halogen bulb right in someone’s face. I don’t know about you, but if you were to do that to me while my eyes were used to darkness, I would react…ungenerously… Darkness gets comfortable doesn’t it? It’s easy do hide things from people we don’t want them to see. It’s easy to hide things from ourselves too if we want. Is it any wonder that sometimes people who aren’t “in the light” react negatively to a Gospel that breaks down their doors and shrinks down their pupils to the size of pinholes in an instant?Some Christians like to share their light by shining a 1M candlepower bulb right in someone's… Click To Tweet
But some may say: “Kevin, the Gospel IS offensive!” I agree. It is an offensive thing to tell someone that they’re a sinner, that they don’t measure up to an impossible standard and as a result, are doomed to eternal and conscience separation. You’re right, in today’s day of moral relativism and “neo-tolerance” (D.A. Carson wrote an amazing book on that) that is offensive. Why, then, do we go out of our way to make our presentation of this offensive thing even more offensive? A Christian sharing the gospel ought to be the least offensive thing in that sentence. The gospel is offensive enough on its own, why do some of us make it more offensive in how we present it?
As believers, we are blessed enough to have the privilege to share and herald the good news of the Gospel. That we can be forgiven; that we HAVE BEEN forgiven. That’s heavy stuff. You could say it’s life-changing. It is. I’ve been a Christian for half my life, I’m not done growing by a long shot. None of us are. Christianity is a life long journey. We gradually get accustomed to more and more light. Let’s not blast everything we’ve got at a person who’s still camped out in a dark room.
Some Christians get the order wrong. They believe that people ought to behave and believe like Christians before belonging to a community. If this were true, Jesus never would have gotten around to the cross because He’d have been too busy shaping up the 12 for the rest of their lives. Instead, Jesus died for us, as Romans 5:8 tells us “while we were still sinners.”
Kindness, winsomeness, tolerance (the classical kind) these ought to be hallmarks of Christian character in our culture, not the exception to the rule. It doesn’t matter if your neighbour is gay or straight, transgender or cisgender, atheist or agnostic, black or white, Liberal, Conservative or NDP, or Democrat or Republican. You ought to be loving, winsome and tolerant. Be the least offensive part of your message, it’s offensive enough on its own.
We herald an offensive gospel to people who are bound to be offended by it; let’s not make our presentation more offensive than our message.