1 Corinthians Day 67 - Why Be Offensive?
Mark 3 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” 4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Yes we are studying Corinthians but reading from Mark. If you weren't with us the last couple of days, Paul makes a strong case in 1 Corinthians 10 of curbing your own freedoms if your choices will offend others. His argument is that being considerate of others trumps personal freedoms. Of course Jesus is our example and He too was considerate but not always and the Bible says there is a time for everything. Given the example from Mark 3, we're going to explore why Jesus chose in that situation to be deliberately offensive and see what we can learn from it as we navigate through life.
The first major difference between Corinthians and here in Mark is the audience. Paul was dealing with new Christians coming out of idolatry. Jesus is dealing with Jews who are well entrenched. Paul was dealing with a small issue that could potentially really confuse and alienate new believers. What was Jesus dealing with? At first glance His behaviour seems over the top. Had he quietly taken the man outside and healed him and sent him on his way everyone could have gone home with their blood pressure in check. However Jesus is angry. One of only two times He is described as angry. Why?
They are in the synagogue (church). Why did people come there? They came to worship God. It was the Sabbath day, a memorial of God's creative and re-creative power. Into this scene come two individuals who normally weren't there. Jesus was always in some synagogue on the Sabbath but because of His extensive traveling it was rarely the same one. However he had been in this one before because they knew exactly who He was. The other outsider was this man with the hand that wasn't working. His very presence was offensive because illness or deformities were interpreted by the Jews as a punishment from God for sin and rendered the sick person unclean. He was defiling their sacred space.
As we outlined yesterday Jesus has a few options that He could have chosen that would have involved no offense. However He chooses the most offensive option available. He interrupts the service, calls the man forward making the two of them the central focus. Then He glares at the watching congregation in anger while asking a single question. "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil, to save life or to kill?"
No one offers an answer.
Notice the kind of anger Jesus was feeling and showing. It was anger rooted in grief not hatred.
Then He heals the man and in response the people leave the synagogue in search of allies to help them kill Jesus. I believe it is safe to say they were offended.
Clearly by the example of Jesus in this situation there are times when offending others is the right move. How do we know when?
I could give a long explanation and if anyone wants further clarification let me know. However here is the short version: When the character of God is being grossly misrepresented by those who claim to be His followers and that misrepresentation is resulting in further pain for the weakest and most vulnerable among us it is time to be offensive. When error and lies become deeply entrenched teachings among the very people who are supposed to stand for truth it is time to be offensive. When those who need God the most are classified by the church as hopeless refuse it is time to be offensive.
In short if you aren't sure what to do ask yourself what will result in the greatest harm to those already in great need and do the opposite. "If you have done it for one of the least of these, you have done it for Me." - Jesus