When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you,” (John 6:53-58) it highly offended many of His followers who did not understand what He was saying or what it meant. In that culture the drinking of blood was hugely offensive and considered abhorrent and unholy. So why didn’t Jesus explain that He meant for them to eat bread and drink the juice of grapes as an act of faith to partake of His broken body and His blood that was to be poured out? Surely He could have made it accessible, instead He just left it there in its religion-exposing rawness. In John 6:66 it records, “from that time on many of his disciples turned their backs on Jesus and refused to be associated with Him.” Wow that is intense!
These were the same people who only a short while before had loved the multiplication of the fish and loaves. They had even eaten of it themselves. Perhaps some of them had even helped to distribute the food and had watched breathlessly as it multiplied in their own hands.
Jesus’ heart is that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9), but He is not afraid to offend the religion in us (or out of us). In fact, His greatest offense was still coming; the act of surrendering His life on the cross.
It makes me wonder why it is then that we have become so used to saying ‘nice’ things, soft things that don’t offend anyone? I see so many churches and ministries caught in the trap of having to keep up the numbers and therefore they feel that they can’t say anything too strong or pursue too much of the Holy Spirit or they will lose people, as well as many spiritual leaders desperate to be liked and followed, and many marketplace leaders silenced by intimidation and the prospect of humiliation. Could we be in danger of doing nothing truly great in our lifetimes, and of shaping a toothless and compromising generation who are obsessed with themselves as a result?
It is true that sometimes the push-back from society (and congregations) against light or truth is vehement. It is also true that not everyone wants to see or hear what is right, and these things can be enough to silence and deter us.
For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” Isaiah 30:9-11
But we cannot leave the way, or get off the path. We cannot afford to prophesy illusions for without vision the people will perish (Proverbs 29:18).
“What one generation tolerates, the next embraces” – I read that somewhere and it has stuck with me. If we want to know why degenerate versions of sexual education has infiltrated our school systems, or why millions of babies were aborted worldwide again last year, or why gender violence took on a new evil, or why our justice system is failing us… then consider what we tolerated in the past and when we bent over backwards not to offend.
Do we love enough to confront or to ask hard questions? Make no mistake that love must be the center and the basis from which we operate. I am not advocating bible-bashing or old school prophecy when I speak of truth-telling. In fact, I work hard to help restore health to prophets and prophetic ministry so that we do not repeat the damage caused in the past through unhealthy prophetic ministry that did not reflect the glorious new covenant and the love it centers on.
To offend therefore is not our aim, but to be afraid to cause offense would hamstring us. So what is the balance? To speak the truth in love (might I stress that this is real, heart-felt love). As Leif Hetland often emphasizes, “we only have authority over what we love.”
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
So then armed with the Truth founded in Love, consider the future that we are shaping currently if we, bearers of Truth, hide our lights lest we offend some.
Let me say what must be said:
You are not a circus, needing a full house to entertain, you are a beacon on a hill.
You are not trying to win the Miss Personality prize at a beauty contest or a popularity prize in politics- you are a speaker of Truth, a revealer of mysteries, a free and untamed creature not bound by the slights of society but called to rise above it and pierce the darkness that dulls the hearts of humanity.
You are light-bringer, truth-teller, hope-giver, lion-hearted, justice-advancer, joy-dispenser, miracle-worker.
You are enough. Brave. Overcomer.
You are not defined by people or stuff. You are made in glory and full of light.
Mickle Bickle captures this so well, “the young Shulamite maiden cried to her king, ‘Your love is better than wine.’ In the same spirit, we as believers today are coming to the point where we realise money and material comforts will never answer the cry of our spirits. Prominence in ministry or the world will never to it. No sensual or romantic relationship with another human being will ever satisfy the deepest cravings of our spirits. We are becoming tired of powerless religion that cannot deliver us from sin or from ourselves. We are tired of churches paralyzed in apathy. A fresh abandonment, a new holy recklessness for Jesus, is awakening in the spirits of God’s people today. The Spirit of God is calling us forth, taking the truths of time and eternity and using them to awaken us out of complacency. Before Jesus returns, God will raise up a church filled with people who are hungering for God-centered Christianity and who refuse to return to man-centered Christianity.” Mike Bickle, Passion for Jesus: Cultivating extravagant love for God.
Who are the ones that Isaiah 32:1-8 speaks of?
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
And princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
A shelter from the storm,
Like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
It speaks of you. You are kings and queens, you are princes. You are the ones who can rule in true justice and defend the vulnerable. You are the ones who can slay the giants and bring refreshing from the Lord. Christ in you is the hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27). Live from His love, find your voice and summon your strength; for this generation and the ones to come need you.