The gospel is not just hard. The gospel is insulting. The gospel tells me things I don’t want to hear and asks me to do things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be told to take the log out of my eye before I take the speck out of anyone else’s. I don’t want to sacrifice my comfort for the love of others.
But those things are just hard. I can “cowboy up,” kick myself in the pants, and get them done if I need to. I can be “man enough” to admit when I was wrong. I can see the advantage of sacrifice, even its joy, and forsake my preferences. I can do “hard,” if I want to bad enough.
But the gospel is also insulting. The gospel looks in my eyes and without blinking says, “Without me you are nothing (John 15:5).” When I respond in astonished offense (1 Cor. 1:20-25), the gospel doesn’t back down, apologize, or change its tone. The gospel calls to me again, “You know it’s true. Surrender.”
At that moment I am faced with the most profound choice of my life – if I refuse to accept the offense of the gospel, then I am choosing to be offended by everything else in life. After I’ve heard the gospel then I will respond to every fault (my own and others) with either the fury of my own righteousness or by surrendering to Christ’s righteousness.
This is the story of many angry people. Angry people are passionate people who are willing to do whatever it takes to makes wrong, right – at least as they define “right” and “whatever it takes.” The thought of surrendering to the standard and will of another is the antithesis of anger.
To be anything other than angry is to let evil win – at least in their mind. And that makes sense. The gospel has always had a way of making it look like evil was about to win. The limp body of Jesus did not look like our strong deliverer on the cross. The early church scurrying from city to city in persecution did not look like a great gospel movement destined to change the world.
The gospel always has a way of looking more like Clark Kent than Superman and asking us to do the same. Sinful anger feels like our Superman suit, but we never realize it’s laced with kryptonite. As we prove (again and again) our inability to play the role of superhero (Messiah), we hear the call of the gospel again, “Take off the cape and put on my righteousness. The cape doesn’t fit you. Trust me. You’ve just proven it would be better if you did.”
“No, it’s not like that. This situation was different… That person wasn’t cooperative… I was fine until I lost my cool… I’m smart enough to learn from my mistakes… If I made the mess, I want the chance to make it right,” and on and on go our excuses. We realize again – if I refuse to accept the offense of the gospel, then I am choosing to be offended by everything else in life.
We walk away knowing we were wrong and convinced we were right. The gospel comes across as the jerk who is always right, but this “jerk” is too nice to hate so we feel like the jerk for being mad at the One who sincerely wanted to rescue us from us.
That is another profound tension of Scripture. Jesus was incredibly easy to hate, yet He is also the most endearing figure in history. Most world religions that reject Christianity (at least its exclusive claims) love Jesus and revere His teachings. We find we are just like everyone else – constantly in need of Jesus and resisting His offer to enter our life and transform it from the inside out.
So what will you do? Will you embrace your weakness to receive God’s strength through the gospel? Or, will you cling to your strength and be offended by everything you can’t do? Will you embrace Christ’s righteousness on your behalf as a gift? Or, will you live in a world of land mines (your own anger) where your righteousness is the standard that judges the world and demands justice? Choose the freedom that comes with the gospel’s offense.