We seem to live in a culture which literally lusts for the opportunity to “take offense”. The mere expression of the understanding that some things are wrong because Scripture says so in a national forum seems almost guaranteed to send someone into a fit of anger…often accompanied by cries that such a belief is, at a minimum, intolerant, probably prejudiced, and therefore worthy of suppression or retribution. Somehow the irony of that position is lost on them.
While politicians, pundits, and police pay lip service to “tolerance” and “free speech”, the truth is that we now inhabit lands where such things no longer seem to apply. At least not to everybody. For example, sodomy and the licensing of homosexual “marriage” MUST be “tolerated”, and of course subsidized by the socialist “safety net”, while “Fundamentalist Mormon” polygamy conversely justifies the kidnapping of children. Hate must be properly focused, in other words, or else it somehow magically becomes a thought crime, but that which the Bible calls “abomination” enjoys the blessing of the State.
Modern society, in short, seems to take particular offense at whatever is Written in Scripture by a YHVH Who is no longer allowed in Caesar’s schools, or his courtrooms. Even many self-described “Christians” are so consumed with the idea of NOT being “under the Law” that they have failed to notice they are no longer “under” the Bill of Rights either! If the “Law” has truly been “done away with”, that damage extends to whole nations, and not the “old testament” alone.
But even those who seek to be like the Bereans, and search out the Scriptures for ourselves, are not immune from taking offense, or being criticized for pointing out certain teachings from His “teaching and instruction”. It is very important that we not “teach as doctrine the traditions of men”, particularly when such “additions” to His Word are based on forbidden pagan practices.
I’ve been wrestling a bit lately with the concept of “blowing the trumpet” of warning (Ezekiel 33:6 and 3:17-19) and the claim — generally made by ‘believers’ to whom they hit just a bit ‘too close to home’ — that it’s simply not “loving” to quote certain verses. After all, feelings might be hurt by things like Matthew 7:21-23, where He is quite blunt with those who practice lawlessness. Or Matthew 5:19, or, well, just about any of them where our Mashiach uses the word “hypocrite” (over and over again in Matthew 23, for example. Oops; He also called them things like “vipers” or worse). Certainly we all want to show “love”, and demonstrate such concern for our brothers and sisters the way He did. But is it “charitable” to ignore what He really said just because it might offend some who aren’t ready for the “meat” of Scripture, or might not even recognize that the things He calls “unclean” aren’t really even meat at ALL?
And are we in fact failing to be obedient, and speak His truth “boldly”, when we fail to speak forthrightly to our brothers and sisters about important issues because someone might take offense? There comes a time, I submit, when we are called to “take off the gloves”.
After all, Scripture repeatedly advises us that those whom He loves, He ‘chastens’. Shouldn’t we be prepared to do likewise, ‘in love’? And what does that really mean? Likewise, Read Deut. 13. Should we not be ‘offended’ — at least a LITTLE — by what offends Him? I contend that He Wrote His instruction down for us for a very good reason. Scripture is full of examples of men and women who were “zealous” for YHVH, and who were likewise uncompromising in doing what He asked of them…but offers very few praises for people who caved in to the “political correctness” of their day or “tickled the ears” of the gullible. Saul and Ahab, among others, seem to be fairly representative of the current crop of “leaders” familiar today.
But the prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) sticks in my mind as a man of YHVH who demonstrated the kind of “tough love” that the people of Israel needed during a time of incredible idolatry, and the weak and corrupt leadership which festered as a result. I Kings chapter 18 tells the story.
In spite of threats against his life, Eliyahu came boldly before a king who was evidently surprised to see him. “Is that you, O ‘troubler of Israel’?” His answer did not seem to indicate too much concern about giving offense. “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals!” When Eliyahu then literally commanded that the king gather the 450 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets of Asherah for a showdown before the people of Israel, Ahab complied.
In one of the most stark choices offered in all of Scripture, the prophet evidently didn’t worry too much about giving offense to those he sought to save from idolatry, either. ‘ “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. ‘ (I Kings 18:21)
Then, of course, Eliyahu “took the gloves off” when he turned his attention to the pagan priests. Did he “offend” the priests of Baal? After all, he not only sarcastically ‘mocked’ them and their false god, but later made sure that not even one escaped.
Eliyahu’s blunt language and powerful demonstration literally revealed to the people of Israel Who was their Elohim, and what was NOT. Interestingly, the Hebrew word transliterated “ahav”, meaning “love”, has the pictographic meaning of “to reveal the Father”. What a wonderful rendering of what it means to love as He would have us understand it! A father’s love must include chastening when necessary, and balances both encouragement and discipline.
There is definitely a time for those of us who claim to follow Him to “take the gloves off”, and most of us understand that evil often triumphs when good men do nothing. But those who are so afraid of giving offense, or being called “intolerant”, will not even take the first step of speaking the Truth from His Word “boldly” when the “sword comes upon the land”. We must not fear the criticism of men when the alternative is to consider that, as watchmen, we may be called to account for our failure to sound a warning.