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The Offensive Words of Jesus

Several years ago, I was confronted by a disgruntled woman about something I taught in a Bible study video. “What you said in that lesson offended me!” Looking for an apology, she explained what had upset her.

My lesson was about the sanctity of marriage. To stress the benefits of a Godly marriage, I quoted statistics from a reliable study, which suggested that children raised in two-parent homes are likely to have better emotional and spiritual outcomes as adults than children from single-parent homes. I also pointed out that there have been some wonderful Christians who had been raised in broken homes. However, the odds favored those with two parents who stayed committed in marriage.

The disgruntled woman was a single mother, and she stressed that she was deeply offended because I quoted those stats. However, I concluded that what I taught in the lesson was the truth and had attempted to present it thoughtfully and gently.

My grandfather was a Godly man from a broken home. When he was a teenager, his dad ran off with another woman, and it devastated the family. My grandfather was so distraught that he ran away from home and tried to join the military. The damage and pain of their dad divorcing their mom plagued them for decades.


“The damage and pain of their dad divorcing their mom plagued them for decades.”


So, I did not apologize to the woman for what I had said in the lesson. However, I did express empathy for her challenging situation. I encouraged her to be faithful, pray daily for her children, and trust the Lord to honor her efforts. Thankfully, she conceded and withdrew her protest, even though I had not apologized.

Nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon remarked in a sermon that sometimes, when he pridefully thinks he has preached a particularly eloquent sermon, his spirit convicts him. “You made the people pleased, but did you glorify your Master? Did you lay the axe at the foot of the tree? Did you come down on their consciences? Did you strive to drive the nail right into their hearts? You might have done better with rough words than with those garnished utterances” (“God or Self – Which?” March 9, 1862).

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, too few preachers are willing to say with Spurgeon, “Well, I did desire to glorify Christ; I did desire to free my conscience of the blood of men; I did want to tell men the whole truth whether they liked it or not.”

Instead, many Christians seem to think Scripture says, “love does not offend.” So, they push back on any Biblical teaching they deem offensive. Of course, what is considered offensive is a constantly moving target, yet the “fear of offending” is directing the mission of many churches. They have made their churches a “safe place,” where “Christian” is erased from the church title, the Cross is substituted with theater lighting, and sermons are replaced by motivational talks.


“The ‘fear of offending’ is directing the mission of many churches.”


As a guest preacher, I have been asked several times in recent years by host pastors not to mention a sensitive subject for fear someone might be offended. However, I am required to stay true to my calling to preach the word …in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus admonished his disciples, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

To “rebuke” is “to express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.” To occasionally reprimand is a part of the preacher’s divinely assigned task!

Consider how Jesus’ rebuked the people and how offensive many of his sayings were:

  • “’You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me’” (Matthew 17:17).
  • “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
  • “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
  • “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”


  • “But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you’” (Matthew 11:24).
  • “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell…” “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Matthew 10:28 & Mark 9:48).
  • “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).
  • “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
  • “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh…Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:7-9).

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”


  • “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”(Matthew 19:9).
  • “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female?’” (Matthew 19:4).
  • “…When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends…invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” (Luke 14:12-13)
  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Wow! Unsurprisingly, many in the First Century found Jesus objectionable and plotted to kill Him. On one occasion, after Jesus rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees, “the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matt. 15:12).

Jesus did not immediately apologize to the religious leaders or adjust His message to avoid offending anyone else.Instead, Jesus, who was full of grace and truth, told His disciples, “Leave them; they are blind guides.” In other words, there will be those who reject the truth.

Jesus also warned them that false prophets are well-received by the masses. “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).


“Jesus also warned them that false prophets are well-received by the masses.”


In anticipation of some rejection, He advised them that if people did not welcome them or listen to their preaching, they were to “shake the dust off your feet” and go on (See Matthew 10:14).

Church leaders, please have the courage to speak the truth in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 13 and do not overly be concerned with offending sinners about their sins. Speaking the truth in love does not mean speaking only the truth that does not offend. It means speaking the truth and doing so patiently, kindly, and humbly without being rude, irritated, or resentful. But be willing to tell the whole truth whether they like it or not.

By doing so, you will faithfully sow the seed of the gospel and let the Lord take care of the harvest. Of course, some will become angry and want to crucify you. Some will scoff and ignore you. But a few will be convicted by the Holy Spirit, repent, and be saved.


“Church leaders, please have the courage to speak the truth in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 13 and do not overly be concerned with offending sinners about their sins.”


Preach to please and glorify Christ alone, and you will discover that when you courageously share God’s Word, genuine Christians will be edified and respect you for it. But, regardless, lead in such a way that you will hear the Lord Jesus say one day, “Well done, good and faithful servantCome and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:23).

From bobrussell.org. Used by permission.

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