As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. Luke 11:53-54
People often think of Jesus as a mild-mannered man not wanting to offend anyone. Luke in chapter 11 tells a different story. Jesus had been invited to dine at the home of a pharisee. The pharisees were the leading religious and political figures of the Jewish day. An invite to a pharisee’s house was as Joe Biden might say a “big deal.” Jesus wasted no time getting to the point during his visit. He poignantly called out the pharisee and his guests for their sins. His honest words rang like insults in the ears of his hearers. “Fools, white washed tombs, hypocrites, and brood of vipers” where some of the words that Jesus had for the pharisees and scribes. Today we might say Jesus was a bit uncouth. He was frank and to the point. It’s hard to imagine how you might feel if your invited dinner guest begin to compare you to a murderer before the food had even had a chance to settle in your stomach. Talk about indigestion. Yet Jesus loved these people. It was his love for them and their followers that motivated him to call out their sin.
And then as Jesus left that dinner party, the pharisees plotted their revenge. They were constantly on look out waiting for the opportune time when Jesus would slip up and say something. They were like a rookie journalist hoping to make his big break by catching Jesus with a hot mic saying something under his breath. Jesus was wise to their game though. Yet, He would still answer their questions with the truth. I imagine that every time that Jesus answered one of their questions in a way they didn’t expect, it would leave them jaw-dropped and infuriated. He continued to call sinners to repent while lovingly warning them of hell. The pharisees eventually had enough and conspired to kill Jesus.
So if the pharisees treated Jesus this way, how shall his followers expect to be treated. Jesus explained what to expect in John 15:18-25
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. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
It’s simple, if the world hated Jesus then they will hate his followers. The way they treated Jesus is the way they will treat us. This has been evident throughout the history of Christianity. From its struggle under the Roman rule to present day in places like Syria and China, Christians have been and are still persecuted for their faith.
In America where I write from, Christians have enjoyed a great amount of freedom. However, it does seem like that freedom is under attack. Which brings us back around to the first passage. The pharisees watched and waited for Jesus to slip up. They also asked him questions hoping to provoke an answer. Two recent cases provide excellent examples of Luke 11:53,54.
The news explodes yesterday that after an interview and profile in GQ magazine, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame was going to be suspended from the hit show. What was his crime? When asked about his opinion on homosexuality, he gave it. Some of have said that his response was a bit uncouth while GLAAD cried that he was offensive and hateful. Phil Robertson paraphrased from the Bible while listing what he thought were sins. This included homosexuality, adultery, bestiality, and drunkenness. A&E, the television network that Duck Dynasty airs on, under pressure from gay organizations put out a statement saying they were going to suspend Phil from the show indefinitely. Then came the media storm. Everyone and their brother has an opinion on the situation. There have been several good posts from some leading Christian thinkers on the situation. Dr. Albert Mohler of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a blog piece entitled “You Have Been Warned”, came to the conclusion:
So the controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life: Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.
Anyone who had watched the show or knows anything about the Robertson family knows that they are conservative Christians. It should have been no shock to anyone that Phil Robertson would think that homosexuality is wrong. And yet here we are. It is sad that in America with its rich history influenced and shaped by great Christian thinkers like John Locke, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield, that paraphrasing the Bible would be considered a public offense. To be fair A&E has every right to broadcast who they want or to not broadcast who they want. However, the day may be coming that speaking out against homosexuality will be considered a hate crime.
Returning to the scripture, its easy to see how the world when it is confronted with Christians living a godly life will not like it. Just as the pharisees plotted against Jesus for speaking out against sin, the world will do the same to us. You can also be sure that the world will be waiting and watching for Phil Robertson and family to slip up.
Which brings us to another lesser known but still widely blogged about story. A pastor that I have often enjoyed hearing preach through podcasts and the like, Mark Driscoll was caught in a “scandal.” Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle. He is also a popular author and speaker somewhat controversial for his uncouth style and directness. (I personally appreciate his directness and willingness to tackle tough questions) He went on a radio show back in November expecting to discuss his newest book. While on the radio, the host accused Mark of plagiarism. The blogosphere exploded when more accusations of plagiarism followed after the radio show. Because of Mark’s bold stance against homosexuality, feminism, and biblical manhood, it seems like many came out of the woodwork to attack him. After a month-long investigation into plagiarism by Tyndale House Publishing, they released a statement. The initial accusation by the radio host was considered unfounded as Driscoll had properly cited in his book the source of his argument. However, it was found that an internal publication for Mars Hill had mistakenly left out a citation in some sermon notes. Mark also released a statement publicly apologizing for the mistake and promising to correct it. In reality, the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. I appreciated Mark’s willingness to own up to a mistake but this was not the big scandal that some were making it out to be. Instead it looked to be as if some were once again looking for Driscoll to trip up and fall.
Both stories are slightly different with different lessons to learn. In one, Driscoll did make a mistake. I think his story serves as a warning that when Christians speak boldly upon anything, there will be plenty of others looking to take them down. It means that Christians have to live above reproach. We also like Driscoll must be willing to own up to mistakes and work to correct them. Christians are not perfect and nor will they be until Christ’s return. Christians need to be willing to accept apologies and to give grace especially over innocent mistakes. We need to be graceful to fellow Christians when they fall. We also need to be willing to show that same grace and mercy to everyone around us.
The Duck Dynasty story goes to show that ultimately it is not the fact that Christians are imperfect that the culture finds offensive but it is the message of Christianity that they can not stand. The world doesn’t need for someone to make mistakes to try to destroy them. This culture is increasingly becoming offended by the Bible message. While the verdict is out on whether Duck Dynasty will continue as a show with or without Phil, the time is coming and is here when anyone who speaks out about sin will be considered a bigot and hateful. The world will be waiting like the Pharisees waited for Jesus to say something offensive. Like Jesus, we must not be afraid to speak the uncouth and politically-incorrect truth. In a culture where the only sin is to say that there is sin, the Christian message is going to be offensive. Christians in America will have to learn to live with courage, speaking the truth in love.