The Message and the Motive
May 31 05
Last week, a Baptist preacher stirred up trouble when he posted his weekly sign in front of his church. The sign read, "The Koran needs to be flushed." This, of course, is in reference the Newsweek article claiming that American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay flushed a Koran down a toilet in order to "break" Muslim prisoners.
When Pastor Creighton Lovelace posted the sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church a week ago Saturday, a local Muslim woman questioned the message and the motive. Within a few days of posting the sign, Lovelace was feeling the pressure, but would not apologize. On Wednesday, the pastor was contacted by the Associated Press and backed down from his stand, saying that he would change the sign.
At first, Lovelace said that he didn't care if he offended anyone. "Well, I thought about it and I said there may be people who are offended by it, but the way I look at it, Jesus told his followers that if the world hates you, don't feel bad because they hated me first," he said. "If we stand for what is right and for God's word and for Christianity, then the world is going to condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint, I said, 'well somebody's mad, somebody's offended, so we must be doing something right.'"
What I find interesting is that Lovelace, like many Christians, has this idea that offending people and making them mad is somehow a good idea, ordained by God. Lovelace's paraphrase of John 15 is just that: a paraphrase. However, upon examination of the passage in question, one can see that Jesus never commanded His disciples to go and offend people. What Jesus was saying was that if His disciples love one another, and if they separate themselves from the things of the world and the ways of the world, then the world would persecute them. Nowhere does Jesus advocate intentionally offending people.
What we must recognize is that the Gospel itself is offensive; that when we tell people they cannot get to heaven on their own, they are offended. When people are told that self-righteousness does them no good, they get upset. When people are told that Yeshua is the only way to heaven because He is the only one who paid the penalty for our sin, they get offended. Notice that we are to tell people about the one true God, and we are to tell them with love in our hearts. New Testament evangelism does not include yelling at the lost and it does not rely on insults.
If you read the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you will see that the only people Yeshua raised His voice to were the Pharisees and Sadducees. These were the Jews who were self-righteous, who believed that they were following the God of the Bible. What they were doing, however, was exalting themselves for following the law of God while ignoring the heart. Yeshua continually told them that the law could not save them. These men did not have love in their hearts and made it difficult for other Jews to have relationship with God. Then we see Yeshua raise His voice, so to speak, in the letters to the churches as dictated to John in the Revelation. These were people, again, who claimed to know the God of the Bible. They proclaimed Christ with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. These He chastised. Never does He insult the lost who claim another god; rather, He goes to them with compassion, as does Paul and the other apostles.
But here we have Pastor Lovelace, and so many like him, expecting the lost to make right choices. Muslims do not claim to know the God of the Bible, so telling them that the Koran should be flushed does nothing to change their hearts. Consider what Paul said in Athens (Acts 17): He did not say that their gods (or the statues of them), or their philosophers (or their philosophical writings), should be "flushed." What he did say was that Yeshua raised Himself from the dead. Paul simply offered them a superior god. He showed them a better way. Some accepted this and some did not. Many were offended by those words, not because Paul spoke in an offensive way, but simply because the Gospel is offensive to those who will not accept it. Some people want to cling to their gods and we cannot force them to change. All we can do is offer the truth that Yeshua paid for our sins and so we must forsake all other gods and follow Him. That's really all there is to it.
Pastor Lovelace, I'm sure, loves God and wants to spread His word, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Lashing out at the lost as if they should know better is the wrong way to go about spreading the word of God.