Published July 14, 2009

Paul's Epistle...
"The Great Offense"

Not long ago, Pastor Gerry Stoltzfoos of Freedom Valley Worship Center in Gettysburg, PA, received an invitation to pray the invocation at a session of the Pennsylvania State House on June 30th. That's quite an honor.

Pastor Stoltzfoos, following required protocol, wrote out his prayer and sent it in advance to the Democrat Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, Keith R. McCall. Speaker McCall read it. And rejected it.

"They sent back a very short rejection note," Pastor Stoltzfoos told reporters. "So I wrote back, ‘I'm curious as to why it was rejected.' They said it had an offensive word." Puzzled at what would be an offensive word in his prayer, Pastor Stoltzfoos wrote again: "Can you tell me what the word was?"

They wrote back: "Jesus."

Pastor Stoltzfoos, to his credit, declined the invitation. He told the House leadership, in so many words, either he prays in Jesus' name or he doesn't pray at all.

It's a sign of the times. Not long ago, in a much-publicized case, U. S. Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmidtt lost a 16-year career and military pension because, while in uniform as a Protestant chaplain, he had the audacity to pray "in Jesus' name."

I skipped kindergarten, a fact my wife says explains the frequency of my social faux pas. So I am sure that one of the cardinal rules taught in kindergarten is that you don't want to do anything to offend anyone. Unfortunately, perhaps we have learned this lesson too well.

But Scripture tells us that the world will not look favorably on the "offense of the cross." (Gal. 5:11.) The Pharisees were "offended" by Jesus' teachings. (Matt. 15, 12.) Christ called those Pharisees "blind men leading the blind."

Why does the world take such great offense at the name of Jesus?

It's because of Who He is! Has it ever occurred to you that if the world didn't take offense at the name of Jesus or His gospel it would be because they felt it was just such a trivial thing that it didn't really matter? But simply because the name of Jesus is such an "offense" to the sinner, and because of Who and what it represents, sinners instinctively, innately, deep down in their spirit, simply don't want to hear that name. It – somehow – makes them uncomfortable. And even if they don't realize it, it terrifies them. So they want to avoid it at all costs. One great way is to get it entirely out of the public square. Out of the schools. Out of public meetings of all sorts. Out of high school graduations.

Think about this for a moment. There is no other "religious name" that has this impact. Mention Buddha. Mention Muhammad. Yawn. Nothing! But mention the name of Jesus and things happen. Remember what happened in the garden on the night of Jesus' betrayal? The soldiers asked for Jesus. He said, "I am He." Those words alone were enough to knock the soldiers down. Literally. (John 18:6.) The power in the name of Jesus is unlimited.

And the world wants to avoid it at all costs. No wonder it's so offensive to the unsaved. Even the devils know Who He is – and tremble. (James 2:19.) Our humanistic, secularist, "me-first" world just "has no need for Jesus," or for anyone who would dare to utter His name. It's why there's no scorn heaped by the world on anyone that's greater than that heaped on the true Christian. Christians and their beliefs — as well as the very name and person of Jesus — are common targets of vile comedians and politicians. (Excuse me if that's redundant.)

Here's the bottom line. We should never hesitate to share the Gospel for fear of offending someone. Yes, I know, that's easier said than done. But you can "be an offense" for the sake of the Gospel without being offensive. That's where love comes into the picture. "Tough love."

A century-and-a-half ago, Charlotte Elliott was visiting some friends in London when a minister, Dr. Cesar Malan, joined them for supper. He boldly asked Miss Elliott if she were a Christian. She took great offense at this. But the Holy Spirit later worked on her heart. And three weeks later when she again met the minister she asked him how to come to this Savior he had talked about. Dr. Malan said, "Just come to Him as you are."

Those remarks led Miss Elliott to accept Christ and later compose a hymn that's still well-known today:

Just as I am, without on plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

And so it was that "great offense" resulted in an anthem that has been solemnly sung over the years while countless sinners filled altars to accept Christ. Do you have the courage to be an "offense" today on behalf of Christ?

- Paul

PS: Pennsylvania State Senator Rich Alloway heard Pastor Stoltzfoos' story and has invited him to pray before the Republican-controlled State Senate on July 29, where praying in Jesus' name has not yet been banned.

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