I recently wrote on the challenge that ministers face in being faithful to a message that engenders hard opposition, on the one hand, and being the kind of man who has a good reputation with outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7), on the other.
Having written all that, this morning I came across a passage in Paul that highlighted the tension in quite a striking way. I should have cited this passage. I should have made it the centerpiece of my argument. Note my italics.
“Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed” (2 Cor. 6:3–9).
Paul’s approach to this whole issue offers a standing rebuke to the culture of our day, including much of the church, which can best be described as the Culture of the Perpetually Offended.
There is clearly a spiritual problem with giving offense, as measured by the Scriptures of God, which is a bad sin, and which results in a discredited ministry. In this category let us put some televangelist bonking various female members of his ministry team, which all came out after he abruptly relocated to Argentina with 500K that was not, strictly speaking, his.
But there is also a pattern of ministry that causes many to claim that offense was given, when it was not given. It was only taken. This would be a ministry that preaches Christ and Him crucified in such a way as to have that gospel collide with the idols of the age. This does not give offense in anything, but does result in things like riots, floggings, imprisonments, and other badges of high honor.
Persecutions are always quagmires of slander. This means that unless you are prepared for your name — your reputation, your testimony, your prestige, your privilege, your eminence, your influence, your character — to be savaged by wild beasts at Ephesus, you are not ready for what will follow after that.
People do write glowing biographies of those who were willing to die for Christ. But this rarely happens to people whose names and reputations did not precede them in death by many years.