If you heard me say yesterday that it ought to give us great hope that we are not the first generation to deal with a group known as "the offended," and you've been paying attention to your Bible even the tiniest bit, then you're probably thinking right now - uhm, Aidan? That's a strange kind of hope you're talking about.
Because these guys that we're looking at this week, guys like Paul and Jesus, were crucified by the offended. Yes, the ruling authorities declared them innocent. Yes, no actual fault could be found in them. But they were still crucified, just as many others like them were killed.
Great hope there. Excellent hope. Just what you've probably always wanted from hope - the confident assurance that even being right doesn't save you from being crucified.
Such is life.
But it is great hope because it reminds us that our worldly wisdom, the best of what we think we know, isn't really all that wise. And it reminds us that when we are persecuted for truth - for being right - we aren't being singled out; we're not alone. Jesus has been there, done that, lived (haha) to tell the tale.
These are the two things that we tell ourselves in times like these to try to settle our hearts just a little bit, aren't they?
First, we tell ourselves that we're right. We're telling the truth. And because we're telling the truth and we're right, that ought to protect us from anything bad that might happen to us. Yes, the world can rant and rave and claim offense, but at the end of the day, the fact that we are right ought to keep us from any harm.
The biblical story tells us something very different. And, it's true - God never called us to be right; He called us to be righteous, and there's a really big difference. And, it's also true - God never promised that even our righteousness would keep us from trouble in this world. In fact, He promised it would bring trouble right to us. So we can stop digging our heels in and demanding that our rightness keep us from any harm or trouble. Simply put, it won't. And when it doesn't, we can know that God already knew and promised us that much.
Second, we tell ourselves that the offended are simply unreasonable and that it's not actually the truth they don't like; it's us. They have some kind of pre-existing bias against us, whether it's because we're Christians or because we're male or female or because of where we live or some position we hold in our community or our economic level or whatever. It's not that the offended don't want to hear it; it's that they don't want to hear it from us.
Then, we get all self-righteous and offended on our own and start making it personal against them because hey, they started it and made it personal against us.
But it's not personal. It never was.
If it was personal, Paul wouldn't have been the guy. He says himself all of the things that he can claim that should have bought him credibility with the very crowds that cried out against him - he was just like them in every way, except for this one fundamental disagreement in belief about who Jesus was - and even that didn't protect him. Because it wasn't personal; it wasn't because it was Paul saying these things that the offended were offended.
It's not because it's you saying it, either. No matter how new of a convert, how big of a hypocrite, how high or low of a status you have, whatever - it's not about you. It's not because it's you that the world is so offended by the message of Christ; it's because of Christ Himself, the high price He paid and the high price He calls His followers to pay for the sake of love.
These are just things that I thought were worth thinking about this week, as we continue to try to navigate our way through a world that feels hostile to the very things that we hold dear about God and faith. It's not new, and it's not unique to us; this has been the way from the very beginning.
So take heart, for there is great reason for hope - yes, even hope crucified. This is the way of the Cross.