Someone recently shared a letter with me that was emailed to them. The person who sent the letter disagreed with a statement they made and their opinion on a specific topic. In this letter the person who wrote it basically told them in no uncertain words – I hope you die. Just so you know the person who wrote the letter wishing death upon another person, was a Christian. A so-called fellow believer in Christ. The crazy thing about the letter is they ended it with God bless you and your family.

When they shared this with me all I could do was shake my head and after my disbelief wore off this thought popped into my head. How do you reconcile “I hope you die” with “God bless you” in the same letter? This led me to think about something Jesus said in the gospel of John. 

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

According to Jesus, if you are a follower of Christ, the world is going to hate you. I can understand this especially if you profess to be a Christian. However, I want to pose a question to you that may seem a little odd at first. Are they hating you for the right reason? Is it because of the gospel, or is it because of you? In other words, is the gospel the offense or are you the offense?

The Message of the Gospel Is Offensive

Have you ever stopped to really look at the message of the gospel? While it is good and wonderful news, when you think about the message, the truth is it is offensive. Think about the things we tell someone in sharing the gospel, and I am not talking about the parts where God loves you and Jesus died for you. That is not the offensive part. Consider these other aspects of the gospel.

– You are a sinner. 

– You need Jesus.

– Jesus is the only way to the Father.

– There is no other name in heaven or earth by which you can be saved.

– If you’re not born again you can’t go to heaven.

I don’t know if you ever thought of it like this, but in order to come to Christ the first thing you must do is admit that you are wrong. You have to admit you are wrong about the way you are living and what you believe. That’s why for many, when they hear this their response is to push back and even get a little defensive. Whether they say it or not they are thinking, “Who do you think you are telling me this?”

When we take this message to the world and share it, there will be those who don’t like it and will be offended by what we say. Some will even find it not only offensive but completely foolish. The Bible tells us this.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

To be honest with you, I am okay if a person is offended by the message of the gospel because it is going to happen. When you take this message to people, don’t think it’s strange that you find rejection or people who hate you because of what you believe. This is what Jesus said would happen. While I am okay with someone being offended by the message, I am not okay with someone being offended by the messenger.

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Is It the Message or Is It the Messenger?

The reality of being a Christian is that some people will take offense because of the things you believe. The question we need to ask ourselves is are they being offended by what we believe, or by how we behave? In other words, is the message the offense or are we the offense?

This is a very sobering question. We are called to stand up for what we believe and proclaim the truth of God’s word. However, in the process of doing this, our actions and behavior should not be the thing that offends people. Unfortunately, far too often this has been the case. We who carry the name of Christ have been our own worst enemy in representing him.

A Thought on This from Jesus

As always Jesus has something to say about the way we behave.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

You are the light of the world. I find it interesting that Jesus says you are the light of the world. One major function light has is to help people see. Light points the way and leads the way. Even the smallest light in a dark room can make a big difference, and your light needs to shine. Jesus didn’t save you to hide the light; he wants you to shine your light. How else will people know about him unless we point people to him. 

Your Actions Are What Determines the Type of Light You Shine

When you carry the name of Christ and shine light, the world is watching. Remember a city on a hill cannot be hidden. What I want you to pay close attention to is the thing that reflects light the most and makes your light shine the brightest. It is your good deeds. How you live and act can be the greatest testimony and witness for Jesus.

Yet there must be a correlation between the message that comes out of your mouth and the actions that come from your life. When these things don’t line up, then the messenger gets in the way of the message. You become the offense instead of the gospel. Some go so far as to call this persecution when in reality people are responding to our bad behavior that does not reflect Jesus or his character. When this happens people cannot hear the message because you have gotten in the way. Since they can’t hear the message, they are not rejecting the message they are rejecting you.

I know this is sobering and may even sting a little, but if we are honest with ourselves it is the truth. It is our responsibility to make sure that we are not the ones who are getting in the way of people hearing the true message of the gospel. If they reject the message that is their choice. We just need to make sure we are not in the way of them being able to hear the message.

Boy holding a lantern in the dark

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Divaneth-Dias

Final Thought

If we really care about the message of the gospel going forward, then we will care about the vessels that carry it. Here is my question to you. What are you willing to sacrifice so that people can hear the message of the gospel clearly? I am not talking about time or money. I am talking about actions and behaviors.

This may require you to think before you speak. To be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. You may have to not respond on social media. Maybe you simply keep some things to yourself because those thoughts or opinions may get in the way of someone hearing the gospel. Whatever we must sacrifice so that the message of the gospel can be heard then we should do it.

When Jesus was on earth, he lived in such a way that they could not find any fault in him. How he lived did not get in the way of what he said, it enhanced it. Let it be said of us that we too would live in such a way that we would enhance the message of the gospel and not detract from it. If the gospel offends that is fine. Let’s just make sure the message is the offense and not us.

More from this author
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The Other Side of Your Obedience
Understanding God’s Love: the Foundation of Our Faith

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.