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January 2013

Learning the Ropes


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The Trouble With Jesus


The Trouble With Jesus

By Judith Puckett

The pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in New York, the oldest protestant church in America, tells about a man who visited the church. After the service, the man shook his hand and said, “I love this church, but I could never join.” When asked why, the man said, “It’s because of the J-Word.” The man was offended by the pastor’s many references to Jesus.

When we read the Bible, we may get the idea that everyone (except the scribes and Pharisees) loved Jesus. But many people in His day didn’t appreciate His teaching or follow Him. Remember the rich young ruler? He followed Jesus for a while, but turned and went away sad when he learned the cost involved. Despite the fact that Jesus gave away food and was a free source of badly needed medical care, not everyone accepted Him.

People today are still offended by Jesus…just as they were when He was on earth. In the Upper Room, before facing the agony of Gethsemane and the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31). Peter protested that he would not be offended—even if everyone else was offended—that he would even die for Jesus. Jesus knew better and predicted Peter’s upcoming denial.

It is common to hear discussions about religion today, but loving Jesus and talking about Him are not always socially acceptable. Schools and many other public places have essentially become Jesus-free zones. Many religious leaders and icons are acceptable, but not Him. Everywhere we turn, we find new rules about what we can and cannot say regarding Jesus and Christianity. Even Free Will Baptist church planters encounter unexpected roadblocks in the form of individuals, organizations, and government officials.

Why are people so offended by Jesus? A few reasons come to mind when you consider His life and ministry. Rather than recommending long-standing religious rituals, Jesus spoke of having a relationship with God. His teachings were radically different than those of popular religious leaders. His standards went beyond the law, and what He taught reminded people of their shortcomings. That was then. Why do people today find Jesus so offensive?


  • Jesus is exclusive. He never minced words about those accepted into God’s kingdom. He proclaimed Himself to be not one way, but the way to Heaven. If you trust Him, you cannot acknowledge any other way. Other religions are just that—religions. They are not other roads to Heaven.

    It has always been hard to accept that good, moral people will miss Heaven, but that’s exactly what Jesus taught. We want to believe that everyone who is sincere is saved, but Jesus taught that many good people are sincerely lost. If sincerity could save us, Jesus would not have had to die. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

  • Jesus taught that truth is absolute. When standing before His accusers, Jesus said, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37b). At His trial, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” At least he acknowledged that there was such a thing. Many people reject the very concept of absolute truth today—both the educated and ignorant. They ridicule Christians for clinging to such an outdated idea. They agree on your truth or my truth, but not on the truth that applies to everyone.

    Truth is not always pleasant or convenient, but it is always absolute. Jesus didn’t stand around arguing the case for truth. He simply said, “I am the Truth.” No relativism, no situational ethics. He didn’t try to convince people of truth. He simply exposed them to truth and expected them to recognize it.

  • Jesus doesn’t fit the status quo. He didn’t fit into the paradigm of organized religion but stood it upside down. His circle of friends included not only the religious, but renegades—fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots—all unwelcome in the inner courts of the temple. The common people were intimidated by the religious rhetoric of the Pharisees, but they were empowered by Jesus’ radical statements about God. With a marked contrast in doctrine and lifestyle, He had the power to evoke chaos on the temple mount simply by showing up.

  • Jesus holds all life sacred. He also proclaimed Himself “the Life.” Life is a sacred gift not to be taken lightly. Jesus recognized the value of every person He met and treated everyone with respect. His life demonstrated how He valued the common people He fed and healed. He honored His parents and even paid respect to those in authority.

    Not all people are pro-life, but Jesus is. The Bible clearly teaches that life in the womb is just as valuable as any other human life. “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life” (Exodus 21:22-23). Jesus cared so much about life that He was willing to give His to save ours. This is certainly not a popular message in American culture today.

  • Jesus expects us to follow Him. We all like the idea of following when the way is easy and without sacrifice. But following Him means more than just the perks and glowing in the glory. Jesus said, “I am the door to the sheepfold.” Not everyone is looking for the way out of sin or the way into God’s light. Some love the darkness too much to give it up.

  • Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Not everyone hungers after righteousness. We are often more hungry for power, recognition, and wealth. We are too comfortable with our own way of living to make drastic changes.

    The trouble with accepting Jesus is that we face some ugly things. We must admit failures and sins—our wretched condition without Him. We must acknowledge we are wicked, weak, worthless, and helpless to change on our own. Following Jesus involves self-denial, sacrifice, blood, and death, topics the average person does not want to discuss. “Leave the slaughterhouse religion for the uncouth, and give us the beautiful. We’d rather talk about good works, love, brotherhood, and angels.” Yet we cannot deny that following Jesus requires applying His blood to our sinful hearts (Titus 3:4-7).

  • Accepting Jesus mandates change. When confronted by Jesus, change is a given. Change is sometimes unpleasant, and it doesn’t come easily to most of us mortals. Sometimes, we are dragged into change kicking and screaming. The Bible teaches that we are completely changed when we meet Jesus. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). By accepting Jesus as Lord, we willingly submit to change and to being changed.

  • Jesus tells it like it is. He said, “If you deny me, I will deny you before my father which is in Heaven.” The choice is up to us. We can accept Him, or we can reject Him. With Jesus, there is no sitting on the fence, no middle ground, no compromise. We either accept Him, or we deny Him. We love Him or we hate Him. We’re His friend or His enemy. We are with Him or we’re against Him. It’s up to us, but He demands that we choose.

And that’s the trouble with Jesus!


About the Writer: Judith Puckett is a happily married, 60-something freelance writer with kids and grandkids. She loves writing, surfing the web, reading, photography, antiques, genealogy, and spending time with friends. Find her book Living by Faith on



©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists