The times we live in are filled ironies. For instance, we enjoy countless labor-saving devices that our great-grandparents wouldn't have dreamed of. Yet somehow, we seem to have less time to spend with our families and enjoy life. Cell phones and email make it possible for us to communicate with virtually anyone in the world anytime we want. Yet many people have never had a conversation with their next-door neighbor.
Another irony of modern times is this: We face increasing pressure to be polite to each other. We're warned not to use phrases that might cause hurt feelings. It's called being PC, that is, politically-correct. Yet at the same time, society is becoming noticeably more rude and inconsiderate. Just read the comments sections of online newspapers and magazines, where people routinely post comments that insult one another for having a different opinion than they. So while we're becoming increasingly cautious about offending one another, yet at the same time, we seem to be increasingly inconsiderate and rude toward each other.
It's a shame. It's a shame that we treat each other so rudely, replacing thoughtful responses with epithets when we disagree. But it's also a shame that we are growing more and more afraid to speak about what we believe for fear of offending others.
Jesus certainly wasn't afraid of offending people. He boldly spoke the truth, even when he knew the truth would be rejected by those he was speaking to. Shortly after performing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus told the crowd that he had come to provide them with so much more than just full stomachs. He said that he was the bread of life from heaven. He told them that he had come to give his life for the world, and that by feeding on him by faith, they would live forever.
But that was offensive to many. They said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" These people wanted a Jesus who gave them bread to eat and soothing words to hear. They wanted a meal, not forgiveness. They wanted a motivational speaker, not a Savior.
Jesus recognized that what he had said didn't sit well with his audience. He responded, "Are you offended by what I say?" But he didn't back down. He didn't change his message or water down his words. He knew what the people wanted to hear, but he also understood what they needed to hear. And what they needed to hear was the good news of salvation through faith in him as their Savior.
Does fear of offending keep you from speaking the truth and sharing what you believe? Do you find yourself backing down from talking about your faith, lest you offend someone? If so, that's a shame. Don't be rude and disrespectful. We need not be "in your face" when it comes to talking about what we believe. St. Peter wrote, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." But he immediately followed that up by saying, "But do this with gentleness and respect." St. Paul said, "Speak the truth." But he qualified it by adding, "in love." Being open and honest about one's faith in Jesus and being polite and civil are not mutually exclusive.
Don't be rude and disrespectful of others. But don't let fear of offending others keep you from sharing your faith.
Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.