It’s just an image. An image created in a photoshop-type program that depicts a man holding a book. No words. No symbols. Just a black book. Why would people be so offended that they demand it removed and threaten harm if their demands aren’t met?
The image on the billboard displayed at Fashion Island mall in Southern California was intended as a throwback to the old photos of the late Rev. Billy Graham. How ironic. If the image of a man holding a book was so offensive that it caused multiple complaints and a “serious threat”, the offended would have certainly croaked if they witnessed the call to repentance offered by Billy Graham to hundreds of millions on national TV. How far we have come in just a few decades.
The image on the billboard was promoting an event called SoCal Harvest. According to Pastor Greg Laurie, SoCal Harvest is an event designed to bring the Good News of who Jesus Christ is to people in our culture today. The event has taken place for the past 29 years. It is likely the longest-running large-scale evangelistic event in American history.
On his blog, Pastor Greg says:
“Over the years, we have seen so many lives transformed. Over 500,000 people have made professions of faith at the SoCal Harvest as well—families put back together, suicidal people finding hope and purpose, others addicted to drugs and/or alcohol finding a whole new life. The SoCal Harvest has also raised thousands of dollars for missions to homeless people in California. This year, we are going to help impoverished children in Ecuador though Compassion International. This is a vibrant, happy, life-changing event that is all about Jesus!"
Families put back together? Those dealing with suicide finding purpose? Folks addicted to drugs and/or alcohol finding hope? Helping improvised children?
To be offended by Jesus is like being offended by the cure rather than the source of pain, hurt, and disease.
What’s so intolerable about what this event has produced?
I believe the foundation of the offense is found in the last part of his statement:
“This is a vibrant, happy, life-changing event that is all about Jesus!”
What is it about this historical figure that produces such outrage that the image of the book that bears his story is offensive? You would think history records him as a gambling womanizing drunkard that had a habit of killing small babies and skinning koala bears for fun.
The lack of understanding of who Jesus was and the purpose of his life on earth isn’t breaking news. What’s fascinating is that people are offended without taking the time to actually read what the Bible and other historical documents say about his life and what it has meant for mankind. It’s been said that offense and intolerance are highly probable when one doesn’t have a clear understanding of the full story.
So, who is this man that causes such angst?
Jesus was a man who reached out to the outcasts of society. He was often in the company of the poor, immoral, diseased, and even the tax collectors found friendship with him. He lived under immense pressure filled with rejection, persecution, misunderstandings, prejudice, and death threats. A thoughtful reading of scripture reveals that Christ was constantly teaching people how to handle stressful situations, to think before reacting, to govern themselves, to critique their own thoughts, and believe in something bigger than themselves.
He took a ragtag group of unsophisticated numbskulls and taught them to be sensitive, humble, have self-control, to not be afraid of failure, to build strong relationships, care for the poor, and give to those in need. Those that walked with him learned that an inner change would result in transformation of thoughts, actions and speak.
If you must live a life full of offense, be offended by the porn industry, human trafficking, greed, poverty, racism and a whole slew of other societal ills.
He was also not afraid to shake things up a bit. During his last days, both the Jewish and Roman authorities plotted to arrest and silence him because his teachings were undermining their control. Did he fear them? Did he hide? Not in the least. At the highpoint of the Jewish festival in Jerusalem, He stood up in the midst of a crowd and spoke words that shook all that listened. He asked those who were thirsty for real life, to come to him and drink. He told them that whoever learned the secrets of his kingdom, would find an inextinguishable source of peace within themselves. Who was this man who spoke about life while facing death?
There’s so much to learn about life of Jesus. He’s a lifelong learn. For me personally and the thousands of men I have spoken to, the learning process has made us better husbands, fathers, employees, employers and men. His life challenges us to be more patient, selfless, compassionate, generous, respectful and to value everyone equally and with dignity. This man has brought freedom and peace to millions of people for thousands of years. It’s hard to believe that anyone could be offended by someone who freely offers the highest quality of life possible. Jesus taught his followers to not cheat, lie, kill, to honor your parents, take a day of rest, tell the truth and honor our bodies. The offended surely lack understanding of who Jesus is and what he stood for. To be offended by Jesus is like being offended by the cure rather than the source of pain, hurt, and disease.
That’s the point, if you’re going to be credible with your offense, take the time to research why you're offended. Relying on 2 minute “breaking news” reports, biased news articles, social media "drive by” shots and water cooler opinions only fuels the fire of offense, it doesn’t solve it.
If you must live a life full of offense, be offended by the porn industry, human trafficking, greed, poverty, racism and a whole slew of other societal ills. Maybe then we can make this world a better place to live.
JT McCraw is the men’s pastor at Bethel World Outreach in Brentwood, TN, a John Maxwell certified Life Coach/Trainer/Speaker and founder of the BE MEN Movement, where he provides oversight for this multi-ethnic, multi-site men’s ministry, focusing on activating, challenging & training men for their journey to authentic manhood. Presently they have locations in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Alabama and Arizona. JT lives in Franklin, TN with his wife of twenty-seven years and has five incredible children. You can follow JT on Twitter @jtmccraw.