“Offended”

“Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6).

In the ashes of the World Trade building in New York City, following the devastation of the 9/11 attacks, lay a twisted metal beam, improbably forming the shape of a cross. For many in the dust-filled, heart-wrenching days following the tragedy, the cross served as a symbol of hope. Somewhere in all that crazy confusion was a symbol of a God who still cared.

Well inevitably a group known as the American Atheists have sued the 9/11 Museum demanding the symbol be removed.  Apparently the presence of a cross at this place of such deepest sorrow “offends” them (Scott Stump, Today, March 6, 2014).

This has become a fairly common ruse by these groups. A prayer offered before a high school football game might “offend” someone; a slice of granite with the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse “offends” certain people (perhaps the criminals who broke one or more of the commandments)?

Have we thought, however, of the implications of removing every sign and statement that might offend others? Would there be a symbol left on our buildings and publications? Because to be candid, as a Christian I pass by things that offend me all the time. I turn on a television and am assaulted by offensive language, language that is crass and demeaning, language that takes the name of my God in vain. I drive down the highway and see billboards with images of people in a state of virtual nakedness. And, yes, as a Christian this offends me.

Should we censure these people, strip the public airwaves and the internet of these images? Well, I am aware of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. My question is this: Whose right to free speech is being threatened here? While vile ideas spew like cobra venom across every centimeter of our society, it is a cross that we want to stamp out from our vision?

I am not advocating for either a cross in our museums or a copy of the Ten Commandments outside our courts. I am asking that Christians be allowed to be in the discussion, be free to express our point of view. And, no, I don’t think this discussion should be limited to a church building. To begin with, a church building is mortar and brick, no more “holy” than the bricks used down the road to build a court of law. Second, if Christian ideals aren’t meant for life outside a church building, then we have rendered our faith as useful as a handful of air!

Christian belief is not held by the dimwitted and uneducated. It is founded on “evidence” and this evidence is substantial. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV).

The best thinkers throughout history, from Luke the Physician, to Tertullian to C.S. Lewis have been Christian, and they have consistently out-thought their detractors. I think that is why some want to censure Christian symbols and Christianity in the market of ideas. They fear the warm heart of Christianity, and the cold evidence of our convictions. And, like those despairing eyes that looked up to a twisted metal girder and saw a cross, we sill need the God-man who was nailed to it.

 

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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