From page 213 of The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers:
“If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for thy name.”
It is important to know our audience; Paul knew his in Athens, and as he writes in 1 Corinthians he became all things to all men, you can’t do that without knowing your audience. But there is a difference between being sensitive to the communication patterns and milieu of an audience and seeking to be sensitive to an audience to the point where the audience is never offended. All too often seeker-sensitive thinking has as its unstated goal: “Do not offend, no matter what, do not offend – do nothing that might cause others to feel bad.” That is the mantra of our therapeutic society where the truth and accountability are seen as “confrontational” and “offensive”. Others have termed it, in the professing church, “Therapeutic Deism”.
In working through John’s Gospel with a weekly small group I’ve been struck by how Jesus seldom stated the obvious and often spoke in terms that people did not understand. The idea of teaching that others should partake of His flesh and blood, and teaching it in a synagogue of all places, is not what I’d call seeker-sensitive preaching. And in John Chapter 5 why didn’t He ease into the idea that He is God? Why did He pound home His divinity with the repeated, “Amen, amen, I say to you”? And why not sit down in the Temple in John Chapter 2 and just say, “Look here, it’s Passover right now so let me talk to you about what the blood and the lamb really mean.”
I’m all for winsome witnessing and conversations seasoned with salt – it can be fun and I enjoy fun; but there are times when the fact is that sharing Christ and being faithful to Him goes against the grain – in fact it usually goes against the grain, and then what do we do?
Do we teach that we are called to suffer for Jesus Christ? Do we equip our people to suffer for Him and the Gospel? Do we teach our young professing Christians that they are called to suffer? Let me be winsome but let me also winsomely and graciously suffer for His sake and the sake of others. Sometimes it takes a martyrdom, such as Stephen’s, to draw a Paul to Jesus Christ. Do you think Stephen suffered in vain? Just as Stephen did not see the fruit of his suffering while on this earth there are more times than not when we have no idea of the fruit of our obedience.
Jesus says, “Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” What would we say to Jesus today if He should say to us, “My son, My daughter, I’m looking for a seed willing to fall into the ground and die for the sake of this man, this woman, this child, this family, this city, this nation, this world”? When those times come do we say, “Here I am Lord, sow me into the ground”?