The Rock of Offense

By John Crowder

Believe it or not, there is one single trait in common to every preacher that ever was or ever will be. What do Augustine, John Piper, Jim Bakker, John Crowder and Martin Luther all have in common? Each one will eventually look back at some of the stuff they once preached and realize they were wrong. There is a quote often (wrongly) attributed to Thomas Merton, which has a ring of truth to it: If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.

Your mind is always changing as you go along. To be honest, this was one point at which I figured Jesus could not fully empathize with us entirely. Because none of His words ever fell to the ground, how would He understand the chagrin of ever having to eat any of them? Everything He said was the word of God because He is the Word of God. He was always right from start to finish.

But even in this I was incorrect. In a very real sense, Jesus can empathize with us in this area ... not because He was ever wrong; but if you trace out the message Jesus proclaimed, there still seems to be a d velopment and a process of growing in revelation even in His own ministry and preaching. Jesus still grew in wisdom and understanding, and there seems to be a fresh unfolding in His own teaching as His ministry progressed. Maybe Jesus never had to eat His words, but He was still growing in maturity like us.

The Maturation of Christ

In Robert Capon’s book “The Gospel According to Marvin,” he creatively addresses Jesus’ own personal growth as the subject matter of the Lord’s teaching transitioned from the ethical message of the Sermon on the Mount and general kingdom concepts, becoming more and more honed in on the whole crapshoot of the human condition and the need for a complete death and resurrection. It is as if Jesus was ever realizing more and more that the whole thing boiled down to His own death and resurrection. As if He was inch by inch realizing it was all summed up in His calling to go to the cross. As the God-man, the paradox of Jesus is that He was both omnipotent and impotent, omniscient yet limited in knowledge.

Exactly when Jesus actually honed in to the final conclusion (in His human mind) that His crucifixion was the core purpose of His calling is unknown. I doubt He had it all figured out in kindergarten. But the subject matter of His preaching eventually centered in almost exclusively to this very thing as the time drew near.

Capon even suggests that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus may have resulted from his personal understanding of Jesus’ words about His own death. Perhaps Judas realized the Lord’s calling more than most by the end. But in a twisted, misguided attempt to “help him out” by moving the whole process along, Judas may have cashed in and “moralistically” handed Jesus over to the authorities. A speculative, but interesting idea. Puts a misguided twist to Judas’ motives.

Nevertheless, in my own ministry, one of greatest changes toward maturity was moving away from a concept that we are called to somehow “bring the kingdom” or usher it in. How arrogant to think we can somehow make the kingdom happen. The shift has come in realizing the kingdom is already here thanks to Jesus. Yes of course there is a future unveiling, and obviously we have not seen its manifestation in all its

fullness. But Jesus is the Kingdom. It is here at hand. The job is complete. Now we are waking up to something called union, and that God has fully wrapped everything up. This is good news.

And that is scandalous.

The Scandalon

The deeper we run with this rabbit trail, the more scan-dalous it gets. The gospel invalidates all our religious attempts at self-improvement, trying to draw God closer, or to set ourselves right with Him. Paul calls the Gospel a “scandalon” ... the scandal of grace. As much as we may want to make the Gospel palatable, seeker sensitive and non-offensive, it is simply impossible to avoid this looming mountain called the Rock of Offense.

Christ Himself is that Rock of Offense (1 Pet. 2:8, Rom. 9:33). You are packing the most counter-cultural, sca dalous message and Person on the planet. The more we depart from a mere message of ethics and human do-gooding, and the more we hone in and center on Jesus alone (and what He alone has accomplished), the more we ourselves will be scandalized. We must expect some blowback.

The Lord promises some amazing things in the atone-ment. There is reconciliation, forgiveness of sin, healing, deliverance, and prosperity. But He also promises something else ... if you hang out with Him, people will want to kill you!

Jesus was no stranger to offense. Herod was vexed at his very birth and wanted to snuff Him out. Imagine being born into a very scenario in which your very ex istence is a scandal. For a moment, let’s consider the scandal of offense that followed Him throughout His earthly ministry:

– In Nazareth people wanted to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-30).
– Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath and people wanted to kill Him (Matt. 12:14).

– Jesus healed a lame man and they wanted to kill Him (John 5:16-18).
– The people wanted to kill him because He claimed to be the Christ (John 7:19-44). 
– He claimed equality with God, so they wanted to kill

Him (John 8:37-59).
– He was making Himself to be God, so they wanted to kill Him (John 10:31-39).
– Many were believing in Him, so people wanted to kill Him (John 11:45-57).

It is an understatement to say that Jesus Himself is the great Stumbling Stone. One that the builders rejected. He stands as an affront to any system built by human hands. He stands in very opposition to any tower of Babel of our own religious constructs to reach heaven on our own. He is pure sacrilege to those systems of ascent we hold sacred. He invalidates every self-help ministry aimed at climbing the holy hill to God.

The Free Radical

Look at the audacity of the guy. Imagine you are in the crowd, and here is this fellow Jesus that everyone is talking about and gathered around to hear. You see the religious elite standing there in the front row – the most important, respected cats in the whole community – the Pharisees. Jesus turns to them and says, “The whores are going to enter the kingdom of heaven be-fore you do!” (Matt. 21:31) You cannot believe what you are hearing. Dude that’s hilarious! But how offensive! He goes on to invalidate every one of these professionally religious guys by saying “none of you know God.” Only Jesus knows the Father - and none of you can know God except through Him! (Matt. 11:27)

Or consider when Jesus is addressing a massive crowd of kosher Jews. He does not tell them to eat a pig (something sacrilegiously tantamount to homosexuality in that culture). No he says something far worse. He says, “Eat Me.”

And He just leaves it hanging there with no explanation. No homily on the Lord’s Supper. No Eucharistic sermon. For all they know, He is endorsing cannibal-ism! And Jesus said it knowing full well that half of them would walk away that day! You cannot accuse Jesus of pandering to the crowds. “Jesus, maybe you should bring a PR man onboard to help you grow your ministry. You’re doing it all wrong!”

This love-hate relationship the people had with Jesus would ultimately culminate in all the crowds, who once followed Him for a free meal, eventually rejecting him, shouting to Pilate, “Crucify Him!” with even His own closest friends denying him, tucking tail and running for the hills.

But it was Jesus Himself, the person, who ruffled feathers – far more than even what He did or even said. If you look at it plainly, even Jesus’ “saving act” was really less of an “action” than it was a passive submission to death. He just kicked over and died so the Father could raise Him. Jesus Himself, more than His saving action, is the real Offense.

The Fatted Calf

I love how Capon describes the parable of the prodigal son. Not only does he describe the simplicity of Christ’s work in being nothing less than to fall over and die to e erything we hold sacred in this world ... He also shows how the scandal of the gospel is summarized in God’s desire to throw a party. Check out what Capon says about this parable:

The fatted calf is actually the Christ-figure in this parable. Consider. What does a fatted calf do? It stands around in its stall with one purpose in life: to drop dead at a moment’s notice in order that people can have a party. If that doesn’t sound like the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world – who dies in Jesus and in all our deaths and who comes finally to the Supper of the Lamb as the pièce de résistance of his own wedding party – I don’t know what does. The fatted calf proclaims that the party is what the Father’s house is all about, just as Jesus the dead and risen Bridegroom proclaims that an eternal bash is what the universe is all about. Creation is not ultimately about religion, or spirituality, or morality, or reconciliation, or any other solemn subject; it’s about God having a good time and just itching to share it. The solemn subjects – all the weird little bells, whistles, and exploding snappers we pay so much attention to – are there only because we are a bunch of dummies who have to be startled into having a good time. If ever once we woke up to the fact that God finally cares only about the party, then the solemn subjects would creep away like pussycats ... and the truly serious subjects would be brought on: robes, rings, shoes, wines, gold, crystal, and precious stones (“Finally! A little class in the act!”).

It is the joyous goodness of the good news that really irritates us. If you want to offend someone, try being happy in front of a depressed person! I have probably gotten into more trouble for just having fun over the years than anything else! Usually the first thing to go as a Christian is the sense of humor.

Working off the Grid

This scandal of the gospel has for ages caused great men and women of God to be vomited out from the religious systems of their day. There comes a point in the lives of many great saints, where the Rock of Offense

begins to manifest in one’s life in such a way that you essentially are forced to start working off the grid.

Paul would roll into town, hoping to work within the framework of the local synagogue structure. He was not setting out to upset the apple cart in such a way as to “start a new religion.” He was not transitioning folks from Judaism to Christianity. He was just proclaiming that the Word of the fathers had finally arrived – here was Christ, the culmination of all they had been looking for! More often than not the Jews would run him out of town on a rail. He was lucky if he did not get stoned or beaten half to death. Then he would move out of the safety of the so-called “local believing community” of Jews and began carrying the message out into the highways and byways ... onto the streets – bringing the message to the Gentiles. In all honesty, if Paul had not been rejected by the Jews, who knows if his ministry to the Gentiles would have ever flourished and developed into what it was?

If the Jews had accepted Paul, perhaps he never would have pioneered the message to Gentiles. He may have just lived his entire life on the Jewish conference circuit. And one has to wonder if Paul himself did not face the occasional doubt, “Can it really be this good? These filthy, heathen Gentiles are brought into the party as well?” But the persecutions he faced kicked him out of the nest. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. Paul went off the grid.

Sometimes it is the curveballs thrown to us by the religious detractors that actually force us out of the boat to begin pioneering outside the four walls. In my own life, as some readers may know, I was a rather popular conference speaker before I believed the gospel. I remember a time when everything on my calendar was a speaking event of 1,000-plus people. Then overnight, I was blacklisted and vomited right out of the big shot charismatic conference circuit.

Now I could have fostered a victim mentality and just whined about it. Or worse yet, I could have tried to water things down and change myself or the message to cater to the existing charismatic evangelical framework people wanted to hear. But unless I had been forced to work off the grid, I never would have had the unction or freedom to really pioneer the message of grace that I now carry. Only by getting outside of that system did I have the flexibility to really speak truth and deliver something that otherwise could not have been birthed and developed within the limitations of that system. At minimum my message would have been water under the bridge, quickly forgotten by the next session when the next conference speaker stood up and preached everyone right back into the law. 

Broader Horizons

Resistance is always a doorway to greater opportunity. There is a platform God has prepared for us. With every closed door, a bigger one opens up. This is why we can never view persecution or resistance as the one negative thing about being a Christian. Nothing can quench our joy. Opposition is always opportunity in disguise. Paul said he faced great resistance, and at the same time great doors of opportunity to the Ephesians. It is the very exuberant joy of this Rock that rattles the cages of false piety. We become emboldened, saying things a sober man never will, like those who “will drink and roar as drunk with wine ... full like a bowl drenched like the corners of the altar” (Zech. 9:15).

Besides the offensive theology of grace, it is the mere joy of Mr. Grace, exuding in play and goofiness that ruffles many feathers. Little do folks know, when their blood boils over many of my own irreverent jokes and shenanigans – often they were really getting upset about the gospel itself in its glorious freedom spilling out in lightheartedness and experiential delight.

Although I am sharing a bit of my testimony, understand I am not moping about backlash I have faced. Rather it has enabled me to make some important points to whatever degree I’m viewed as a leader in the church. People get insurmountably nervous when you begin to rock the boat of lifeless traditionalism that has become their safety net and the little box in which they believe God resides. People can spout until they are blue in the face that God does not “live in a box,” but these selfsame people will still demand your blood the moment you suggest their “out of the box” God was just neatly filed away into a different shaped box of their own making.

Stubborn and stiff-necked, any movement of God must alignwiththeirexistingprotocol.Thereisnoparadigm for the truly inexplicable or the mystery of God’s ineffability that is not only beyond us and foreign to our tradition – but moreover it invalidates the mindless ritualism and self-effort in which we are entrenched and highly invested.

Vomited by Mother Church

You see a common theme here with many great revivalists. John Wesley and George Whitfield in the First Great Awakening left the pulpit to begin preaching in the streets. Now on the one hand, this was because the church buildings could not hold the crowds of thousands gathering to hear them. But a more inconvenient truth that the history books often gloss over, is that these men took to the streets – for the most part – precisely because they got kicked out of their denominations.

Now I am not comparing myself to a Whitfield or Wesley, but one slight comparison that I do see (in terms of working outside the grid of the system) is that I have never once made it my intention to work outside the institutional church. In fact, I consider myself firmly planted within the church and ministering primarily to the church at large.

I have noticed over the years, since I host most of my own events and schools, that many folks assume that I bailed out on the local church or the conference circuit – and in my hard-headed stubbornness decided I wasn’t going to play with those guys anymore. Some say “John you should start doing conferences with the ‘big boys’ again because they need this message,” as if I intentionally walked away from churches and conferences ... No, I got canned!

It is humorous to me that many pastors who actually do want me into their churches don’t even bother requesting me because they assume that I only work solo ... the Lone Ranger, with the occasional sidekick Tonto – with Tim Wright doing music or something. It is important to clarify I was never looking to work outside the grid. I was spit out. I never once became an “anti local-church” guy, nor did I ever reject the importance of conferences or special gatherings. I did not walk away from it all. I was booted! Not by some decree of an apostolic counsel, but by shady greenroom whispers and simple fear of the unknown. This guy doesn’t take lega ism seriously enough.

I can honestly say there has always been something on me (an anointing if you will?) wherein even from my time as a youth, folks would either love me or get irrationally irritated by me. Sometimes, we are just marked for controversy. And we must see this as a gift, not a curse.

Again, I am not trying to personalize this in a therapeutic rant, but sharing a bit of testimony. The most atrocious thing is when people get a spirit of rejection and just assume everyone is out to get them. I do not have to assume jack squat. Just Google me and see it is a fact ... everyone is out to get me! But even in that, I know it is all a blessing in disguise so I have learned a valuable lesson in not growing bitter or brooding or insecure or taking the whole victim mentality onboard. I expect favor, and I know that when it comes to the common man who does not have a religion business at stake, there are more who are for me than are against me.

And I want you to realize this in your own life. Because once you get a certain bit of negative feedback, our natural inclination at times is to start second-guessing and wondering if the Pharisees are right!

Learning From Detractors

Know that not every bit of resistance we get is defined as persecution. If you reach a point where you are always right, and everyone else is wrong, you have arrived at a sad state of arrogance and hubris. I have stirred up a ton of trouble that was rightly merited which I brought upon myself. I remember many years back in our days in Alaska before I was in itinerate ministry; we unwittingly split a church because people did not like all the inner healing courses we taught. And now, ironically, I look back shaking my head because today I preach against the very inner healing formulas I once embraced!

Sometimes we just do dumb things that cause unnecessary trouble. Do not get a persecution complex, arrogantly thinking every bit of negative criticism is always wrong. Stay humble. Be teachable. If there is an area for correction, try to agree with your adversary quickly.

So embracing the rock of offense is not owning a constant sense of rejection. Nor is it equated with the continual deconstruction of thumb sucking Facebook pundits who constantly tear down what they perceive as wrong – the only right ones in a world of deceived religious Christians. No, this Rock is also about embracing the scandal of humility in a world of pride. A frequency of love and kindness in a world of ego. It is about the joy, exuberance and radical liberty of grace undiluted that stirs the ire of a zealous, self-important Sanhedrin lacking in true, deep knowledge of righteousness by Christ alone.

We do not offend for offense sake. Jesus has some pretty harsh words for the one who causes the innocent to stumble (something about millstones tied to their necks and being dumped overboard?). But let us not go down that road. Rather, we offend the mind to reveal theheart. We confound, only to open eyes to revelation. We are shocking humanity into a realization of God’s goodness. And the abrasion comes rather accidentally. It is not that we really do things to intentionally bring offense. Religious folks get upset over the very fact that you are not doing anything! Retiring from all the external, superstitious trappings they expect of you. The very rest of faith and confidence in one’s absolute perfection in Christ alone is radically challenging.

A Loving Aggression

Let us always remember to bear with the weaker brother: the older brother who has been slaving away for an approval he has always had. Paul tells us of religious twits so lacking in faith in Christ, they are locked into all manner of performance. Their faith only allows them to eat vegetables (today that would be the fasting crowd, or those who superstitiously avoid wine and Pink Floyd, entrenched in a two-decade inner healing program to become holy).

Love is the rhythm of this whole thing. We know to love sinners, but we also love even religious folks who just “don’t get it.” Love does not demand a compromise of truth. Paul does not pull any punches regarding what he believes. He still addresses the doctrinal backwardness and anti-gospel, anti-faith error of the aforementioned vegetarians. Paul knows that their manmade regulations are irrelevant, as he says, “Nothing is unclean in itself.” But Paul is saying to put relationship over these things. Do not get caught up in triling matters, arguing and debating petty issues. The kingdom is not a matter of food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. The real offense is the gospel.

With the intensity of our rigid stance against darkness, we must always have the correct culprit in the crosshairs. We must never fail to love our brother, though we hate the sin and unbelief that entangles him. The very reason for our unrelenting stubbornness against religion is that we are motivated by love to see the oppressed liberated.

But even then, love does not always look like coddling words and windy walks in the park together.

The Gunslinger Prophet

This mark of offense is something inherently latent within any true prophetic ministry. There is a certain flippancy and crassness toward the religious idols they smash. Consider Paul speaking of the Judaizers, whom he termed the “circumcision lot.” He says, “I wish they would go all the way and chop the whole thing off!” (Gal. 5:12) At times crass, Paul used intentionally vulgar terms - not just calling these legalists “mutilators of the flesh” and “dogs,” but most literally says such self righteousness amounts to dog shit (Phil. 3:8 – skubalon).

Forget the sugarcoated terminology of “filthy rags.” Isaiah called self-righteousness old menstrual rags. I hesitate to conjure up this image, but in the East (even still in much of impoverished India today), those same old rags would get shoved in every month without even being washed – viewed as an object of shame. Sorry to be gross ... just stating a fact about the beauty of religion.

The scriptures vehemently poke fun at human pride and pretension. Jesus used humor and irony all the time in this way, constantly employing satire to mock the overly serious Pharisees. He used humorous images like the blind leading the blind, swallowing a camel, anal retentively cleaning the outside of a cup while leaving the inside filthy, having a log rammed in your eye while picking the speck out of someone else’s, whitewashing beautiful tombs that are inwardly full of dead men’s

bones; and let us not forget loudly honoring former prophets while plotting to kill the present ones preaching the same message.

Jesus and Paul were not the only biblical figures who employed sarcasm. Consider Elijah mocking the priests of Baal as they begged and slashed themselves in a frenzy, “Why hasn’t Baal showed up? Shout louder! Maybe he is busy taking a dump!”

And do we forget about Martin Luther? Every protestant calls him a superhero, but what if they actually read his books? He is the classic prophet venerated after his own death. But his books are laced with horrendously obscene insults, swarthy enough to offend the best Lutherans today. Not necessarily classy stuff, but who am I to say? He got the job done.

Just for fun, here are a few random Luther insults just to brighten your day (good for a laugh, but I would not recommend employing them yourself):

You are the prostitute of heretics!
You are a bungling magpie, croaking loudly.
You are admirable, fine, pious sows and asses.
You are like mouse dropping in the pepper.
You are a brothel-keeper and the devil’s daughter in hell.
You cowardly slave, you corrupt sycophant, with your sickening advice!
You are idiots and swine.
I can with good conscience consider you a fart-ass and an enemy of God.

Again, use those carefully. But talk about working outside the grid!! Luther had the whole of the Roman church storming down on him, lusting for his blood. Yet Luther just happened to be born in a day when this convenient thing called the printing press came into popularity. The Roman church could not stop him or stamp out his words from the bully pulpit. Luther’s message of grace went out to the masses.

Catalysts Outside the Box

The Lord has always made a platform for His message, even if it entailed certain catalysts being spurned from the church building. Millions came to faith in the televangelism of the 1980s before all TV ministry eventually went south. Those guys were working outside the grid of the institutional church. Granted, television ministry is pretty institutionalized today. But before Jim Bakker started picking up hookers, it was cutting edge and highly effective in reaching society. Certain ministers are cut out for TBN. Myself, well I’m just fortunate to be on YouTube! But in all seriousness, thank God for the Internet.

The Internet is a phenomenal, fresh platform that is radically more open than the Sunday morning pulpit filter. No doubt it is both a door of heaven and hell ... but what an avenue for the Gospel today! We are living in exciting times of change and reformation. I’m not saying every keyboard warrior out there is a Martin Luther – no more than every book that hit a printing press was inspired, nor every Christian TV telethon. But there is a massive worldwide platform pregnant for potential with true reform.

At the end of the day, God is highly vested in the Word of our salvation. He will broadcast it. If we can reform the system within, that is beautiful. But sometimes it is His very sovereign hand that allows us to be shunned or excommunicated, just to reach a broader base. It is the sick, not the healthy who need a doctor. So what? A door was closed in your face? Get over it and lift your vision to the bigger doors of opportunity He has placed before you.

The Spirit of Elijah

Nevertheless, whether within or from without, the Gospel just does not come without offense. For decades, the modern prophetic/charismatic movement has long talked about the Spirit of Elijah – it is one of their pet subjects. The Spirit of Elijah is not about giving a few personal prophetic words during your home group prayer circle.

The essence of what we might truly call the Spirit of Elijah is a wild, ecstatic, out-of-the box, blazing, groundshaking thing that shocks people out of their existing normative paradigms. And one hallmark feature that stands out about this mantle is brazen unpredictability. It is extreme. People cut from this cloth always have a measure of eccentricity and wildness. John the Baptist, who walked in this spirit, was untamed and unfettered. These persons embody what composer Oscar Levant once spoke of when he said, “There is a fine line between genius and insanity.”

There is something solid in the surreal. The existence of a realm outside the known parameters. It is a place of divine mystery. The path of Life. The ecstatic prophets of old knew this place. These men were radicals. Unpredictable. Fiery. These were unbalanced men; their lifestyles marked by the strange and uncanny. They lived somewhere between heaven and earth. These men were well outside the established circles of their day. They belonged to a company of fanatics and mystics—an eternal generation that is strewn timelessly throughout all the ages to be paraded at the end in a grand apostolic processional—these men who never danced for mainstream society nor fit within the tailored hem of manmade religion. 

These men were a loud and grinding catalyst in a white-picket-fence world, a reminder of another place. They were a preservative of truth who endured social distaste, persecution and misunderstanding for our sakes and for the hope of a better resurrection. Most people are quite comfortable with a faith that ts within the boundaries of their own understanding. But these men lived outside themselves. Consider Isaiah, who wrote 66 chapters in our gold-gilded Bibles. He looked millennia into the future through multiple dimensions of reality. And he walked the earth naked for three years.

Ezekiel cooked with dung cakes. Hosea married a whore. John the Baptist lived in the desert, wearing animal hair and eating bugs. Their approaches were heterodox at best. Their truths were inconvenient. The world and the clergy of their day forbade their ideas.

Thomas Merton said, “One of the first signs of a (great saint) may well be the fact that other people do not know what to make of him. In fact they are not sure whether he is crazy or only proud: but it must at least be pride to be haunted by some individual ideal which n body but God really comprehends. ...He cannot seem to make his life fit in with the books.”

Holy Fools

The Scriptures and the annals of history are chock full of these ecstatics, who somehow tasted the invisible and were too captured by the siren melodies of heaven to turn back around. The Lord speaks most highly of thesemenwhomwedespisedinlifebuthonorindeath. He also spoke of more to come—many more to come.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, there is in fact an unofficial office (like prophet or deacon) that is literally called the holy fool. Bishop Kallistos Ware explains:

The fool (for Christ) is guided, not by objectivized “laws,” but by the voice of God speaking directly in the heart. ... He bears witness to the preeminent value of persons rather than rules. Mocking the world, the fool strips off the masks of hypocrisy, demystifies roles, and reveals the presence of the human, the all-too-human, behind the facade of dignity and honor. He is the one who dares to say that the emperor has no clothes. To awaken others from their “pious” complacency, he often employs shock tactics. ... He does not mock Holy Scriptures or the Creed, the sacraments or the icons. He mocks only the pompous and self-satisfied who hold high offices in the Church and the humorless ritualists who confuse outer gesture with inner life. His protest is not destructive but liberating, and creative . . . He is a “sign” bearing witness that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

Let me close in saying this is no wholesale endorsement of anarchist character flaws, bad attitudes or flippant, unloving, arrogant personalities who just want to be provocateur shock jocks in order to have an edge, draw attention or make a name for themselves. We see thousands of these, and it becomes a dull, disinteresting, hackneyed caricature in our society of outrage on social media. I do not endorse the lack of humility or unteachability we see in such persons. Jesus never criticized anyone He was not willing to die for. Holy criticism is far more concerned with building up and edifying what is true, rather than a mere defacement of what is false.

No, I am speaking of a wildfire of divine love and vision that takes hold of a man ... something that cannot shake loose. True, unabashed sacrificial love is the very heartbeat of holy offense. It is a bravery and curiosity to look square in the face of the Gospel, though it shatter every falsehood with which we are clothed. This untamed intimacy does indeed call for bravery ... because our biggest fear is not of rejection, but of total, absolute acceptance. We are scared spitless of this kind of love and vulnerability, which is the very rhythm of the Gospel and of an incarnate Savior who embraced us warts and all.

Let us not join with angry hotheaded critics, who lacking substance merely find a foil by which to prove themselves better. No, I look for a people who are so overmastered by the love of God and a beatific vision of the Gospel that they honestly and authentically do not care anymore about opinions. They are veritably possessed by the authentic love and care of God and their fellow man. Yes, this may make them pariahs and irritants to the status quo. But this is not some gimmick. This divine abrasion is not just a personality trait of the caustic or contentious.

Indeed there is one true offense. And that is Jesus Christ. The Rock of Offense. The very grace of the Gospel that upends entire religious and world systems on their heads and says all are embraced. All are loved. All are accepted. All are perfected. All are included - and it is not our fault!

Let us be radically bold, obnoxiously joyful, invasively loving and certifiably insane for believing and preaching a Gospel that is absolutely too good to be true ... as if it really, really is. Offensiveness is not something you need to cultivate. It is just a byproduct of believing this scandalous good news. 

John Crowder, 11/14/2017