The Eleventh Commandment
There seems to be an unwritten yet oft-appealed to 11th commandment. Go to any “seeker sensitive” evangelical church or any “open and affirming” liberal church and you’ll find this commandment: Thou shalt not offend. These churches might agree with the old Puritan adage of comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted, so long as you don’t offend people or a certain subset of society. If a pastor begins to address sins—not just sin in general, but sins in particular—he had better watch out because if he offends the wrong person, he and his family will be out on the streets.
The problem is, there is no such thing as the 11th commandment. I once came across a quote attributed to Martin Luther. He might not have said it, but I think he’d agree nonetheless that preaching should either cause the hearer to hate his sin or hate his pastor. The Bible is abundantly clear that when the Gospel is rightly preached, it should do just as Luther did or might have said. The Gospel should pierce true believers to the core and expose their sins so that, in the light of the Word, they may grow more and more to hate their sins. Likewise, when the Gospel is rightly preached, it should pierce non-believers and chide them more and more to hate the truth and therefore hate truth-tellers.
Jesus tells us as much in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword; for I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” The immediate context clues us into what He’s talking about. In verse 32 He says, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” In fact, this whole section of Matthew 10 is about the hard truths of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The fact of the matter is Scripture does not shy away from offending. Check out the following passages: Luke 3:7; Matthew 23:13, 33; Galatians 5:12; Hebrews 6:8; James 4:4; II Peter 2:12; II John 10; Jude 16. Every New Testament author, at one point or another, says something that offends. And this is for good reason.
The Apostle Paul tells us so in II Corinthians 7:8-9. “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.” The church in Corinth was offended by Paul’s previous letters. He hurt their feelings. He called out specific sins. He spoke the truth in love. He was sad to hear they were offended, but clearly he found joy because in their sorrow and offense, the true Christians say their sins and repented. This is the ultimate goal of the Gospel, to bring sinners to repentance before the grace of God.
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