“Hear what comfortable words the Scriptures say” – that’s what we frequently hear during holy communion. 1Jn.1:9 or Jn.3:16 will then be read and these words of Scriptures give us comfort as they are meant to.
However, the Scriptures do not merely contain comfortable words, there are uncomfortable words too – words that few preachers would preach because they fear finding half their congregation worshipping in another church the following Sunday!
The problem many have with the uncomfortable words of Scriptures is that these words make us feel UNCOMFORTABLE! But that’s the Lord’s intention with these words isn’t it? Former Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore, Bishop Robert Solomon often told us (the pastors), “We are called to comfort the troubled, and trouble the comfortable.”
Here’s an example of uncomfortable words from the Apostle Peter:
“For IF GOD DID NOT SPARE angels when they sinned, BUT SENT THEM TO HELL, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then THE LORD KNOWS HOW TO RESCUE THE GODLY FROM TRIALS AND TO HOLD THE UNRIGHTEOUS FOR PUNISHMENT ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.” – 2 Peter 2:4-10 NIV
If we refer to the opening verse of 2 Peter, we would find that Peter wrote this letter to address believers, not non-believers. Yet he used such strong language – to warn believers of God’s judgment for the ungodly, including ungodly Christians. He used the words, “sent them to hell”! Peter also comforted the righteous reminding them that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.
We live in a gracious and polite society where every individual is highly valued and respected – rightly so. The flipside is that we so often dare not speak the truth in love because we do not want to offend each other. I think we lost something valuable here. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is both unconditionally loving and inclusive, at the same time, uncompromisingly offensive and exclusive! That’s the gospel you and I have believed and are called to preach. If you don’t believe me, read the Bible for yourself and don’t just rely on your pastor’s or my preaching.
If we are always loving, something may be wrong with our version of Christianity. Likewise, if we are always offensive, something may be wrong with us in our practice of the Christian faith. What we need is a careful, yet paradoxical balance of living out and preaching the gospel. We need to recover what it means to speak the truth in love.