The Gospel is Offensive — and That’s Okay


The fear surrounding evangelism is a universal experience among Christians. The idea of proclaiming our faith to those who don’t share it evokes excitement, but also stress and panic. I have even had anxiety attacks over the very thought. Why is it so hard to share the best part of our lives with others?

Simple: the gospel is offensive. As a believer, even my pride is damaged by my own beliefs. It can be difficult to reconcile. So if I am feeling this way, how will my lost friend react when I tell her about the gospel?

Offending others is seen today as an ultimate evil, and for good reason. The Bible calls for all our interactions to be gentle, gracious, and seasoned with salt (not salty). But sometimes, being offended is okay. Today, I will break down why we’re offended by the gospel, and why that’s okay.

What is the Gospel?

What do I mean when I talk about “the gospel?” The gospel is literally “the good news.” It is the biblical message that while in the beginning creation was perfect, mankind fell short of God’s standard. Adam and Eve gave into the idea that they, not God, knew best. That left us eternally separated from God. But He refused to leave us in such a helpless state. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to live the blameless life we should have lived, and die the humiliating death we should have died. He took on the sins we have committed and have yet to commit. Then three days later, He walked out of His tomb, defeating our sin and removing the barrier between us and Himself for eternity. He did the hard part. All we have to do is ask His forgiveness and believe this glorious promise of eternal life.

This is indeed good news. Our inability to live up to God’s standard is no longer a stumbling block. We are free to have a relationship with He who is unfathomably better than us in every way. Yet there is still a stumbling block of offense. People recoil at the idea that they need God. Why?

It’s Meant to Offend

We shouldn’t be shocked that the gospel offends. The Bible told us it would. Jesus offended the sensibilities of the religious elite. This dirty, homeless carpenter traveled around preaching against all they held dear, communing with people they thought beneath them. They and their Jewish followers couldn’t fathom a Savior who looked, spoke, and acted like Jesus. The idea that their works were filthy rags was profane to them. They wanted peace with God, but they were tripping over the rock on which our faith is built. In Romans 9:33, God tells us through Paul: “‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’”

The Word of God continues to offend today. We know that sometimes the truth hurts (thank you, Lizzo), and scripture is the ultimate truth. It is a living, breathing truth, that convicts our hearts of its worst crimes. Hebrews 4:12 calls it “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” While the gospel offends, it offends for good reason. 

It Goes Against Human Nature

The idea of the gospel is grating to the way our fallible hearts are wired. As humans, we long to be self-sufficient. We want to make our own rules and break them when we see fit. When it comes to our lives, we don’t want to ask permission or forgiveness. And yes, ‘we’ also means ‘me.’ In fact, it means me most of all.

The gospel, on the other hand, says that our understanding is flawed and our hearts are not to be trusted. It says that God sets good boundaries, and crossing them leads to death. It says that we are accountable to Him, and we need His forgiveness daily.  

In their heart of hearts, even believers find this offensive at times. Human nature does not disappear when we accept Christ; we just have the help we need to overcome it. We need the aid of the holy spirit to see past the gospel’s offense to its truth and goodness. 

Softening the Blow

One of my favorite Christian authors, Tim Keller, best summed up both the offense and the goodness of the gospel:

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

The first half of the sentence makes us cringe, but the second half softens the blow. Once we silence our pride, we realize that our sin, and therefore our need for Christ, is real. And once we get to that point, we realize that so is His love. 

You see, even though man stumbles over his need for Christ, He does not stumble over our sin. We do not need to fear the prospect that we are flawed, that we have missed the mark. It doesn’t matter– He still came. In fact, that’s WHY He came. We are loved beyond our wildest dreams, and nothing can change that: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39.

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