INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
Recently, when discussing my article about Max Lucado’s apology to the Washington National Cathedral[i], I was asked if I thought Max needed to apologize for his 2004 sermon about homosexuality. In view of the fact that Max’s sermon was biblically correct and compassionate, displayed logical thinking, and did not use inflammatory hyperbole, my response was “no, he did not need to apologize.” All Max did was call sinful behavior what it is, “sin.”
After giving it some more thought, I decided to look into the issue of should I apologize for calling sinful behavior “sin?” My conclusions are as follows:
(1) I do not want to intentionally hurt people’s feelings;
(2) I do not want to be unconcerned about people’s feelings;
(3) I do not want to be flippant, thoughtless or reckless about people’s feelings; and
(4) In light of the fact that Jesus, Stephen, Paul, Silas, and Peter and the Apostle hurt people’s feelings when they preached the gospel, while will I try my best to not needlessly hurt people’s feelings by what I write or say, but, if it entails calling sinful behavior sin and someone’s eternal destiny is in the balance, then I will not hesitate to hurt people’s feelings by calling sinful behavior sin.
SOURCES OF MY RESEARCH
To see what others have written, my internet search discovered an article written by Mike Duran, dated August 3 2012, and entitled “Sometimes Jesus Hurts People’s Feelings.” The link is Sometimes Jesus Hurts People’s Feelings (mikeduran.com). I then looked at various passages in the Bible that described situations where people’s feelings had been hurt by something that was said.
THREE WAYS I DO NOT WANT TO HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS
Mike Duran points out three ways I do not want to hurt people’s feelings.
First, I do not want to intentionally hurt people’s feelings. In the context of calling sin “sin,” it does not help the situation to intentionally say or write things that are mean-spirited. Therefore, I do not want to be mean or cruel by what I write or say. Of course, I cannot help how the recipient receives the message, but hopefully, it will have been phrased in a loving and caring way such that it is apparent there is no intention to hurt feelings.
Second, I do not want to be unconcerned about people’s feelings. In the context of calling sin “sin,” I want to be as concerned as I can about people’s feelings. But, having a concern for people’s feelings cannot water down the biblical message. My concern for people’s feelings cannot trump the biblical message that sin is “sin.”
Third, I do not want to be flippant, thoughtless or reckless about people’s feelings. In the context of calling sin “sin,” I want to be straightforward in my biblical analysis and antiseptic in what I say and write. Pure and simple, my goal is to define sin according to the biblical standard using accepted exegetical principles.
SOMETIMES BIBLICAL TRUTH CAN HURT FEELINGS
No doubt, in the context of calling sin “sin,” no matter how careful I try to be, the proclamation of biblical truth can hurt feelings. Based upon what the Bible teaches, some actions comprise sin. Some sinful lifestyles appear to be damnable. As one example, what appear to be damnable lifestyles are identified in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NET):
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals,10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
For me to say or write that a person whose lifestyle[ii] is “verbally abusive” is headed on the road to “not inherit the kingdom of God” is biblically true. One commentator[iii] points out the lifestyle nature of the listing of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
To make his point more clearly, Paul offered a list of lifestyles that were common outside the Christian community. He did not speak of people who occasionally fell into these sins, but of those who made these sins the patterns of their lives.
There is a very good chance that by me saying or writing such a thing, I will hurt the feelings of persons whose lifestyle comprises being “verbally abusive.,” The NET translates the Greek adjective loidoroi as “the verbally abusive” and it means “one who engages in slandering.”[iv] Other English translations of loidoroi include “revilers” (NABS95), “slanderers” (NIV), “are abusive” (NLT), and “who use abusive language” (GW).
While I do not intend to hurt the feelings of a “verbally abusive” person, I cannot water down the biblical message of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The reason I cannot water it down is that the eternal destiny of the “verbally abusive” person is at stake. It is highly likely that hurt feelings will be the predicate to his or her salvation. To water it down in order to avoid hurt feelings is essentially paving the road to hell.
For me, it is akin to what Penn Jillette – an avowed atheist – said in 2009[v] about the failure of a Christian to witness:
“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” Jillette asked. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Sometimes tackling a person hurts feelings, but better hurt feelings in the present than torment in hell forever.
JESUS HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS
In his article, Mike Duran lists a number of examples in which it appears Jesus hurt people’s feelings. Let me look at Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in the act of adultery, which is found in John 8:1–11 (NASB95):
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
Jesus’ final instructions to her were, “From now on sin no more.” According to the NIV translation, Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” One commentator[vi] comments on the NIV translation:
NIV’s leave your life of sin establishes the point directly, even if the expression almost paints the woman as an habitual whore (though the Greek bears no such overtones).
While what Jesus said may have hurt her feelings about her lifestyle, they were life-saving instructions.
When He taught the people in the synagogue with wisdom and mighty words, Jesus hurt the feelings of the hometown crowd as recorded in Matthew 13:57 (NASB95):
57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
When He taught that what comes out of the moth is what defiles and not what goes in, Jesus hurt the feelings of the religious establishment per Matthew 15:12 (NASB95):
12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”
Overall, there were times when Jesus hurt people’s feelings. But, when He did, there was always a justification for doing so.
STEPHEN HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS
By preaching the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, Stephen hurt people’s feelings. See Acts 7:1-53. In fact, he hurt their feelings to such an extent that they murdered him as described in Acts 7:54–60 (NASB95):
54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.
PETER HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS
It appears that Peter hurt people’s feelings when he preached the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, some of Peter’s audience to his sermon on Pentecost had their feelings hurt per Acts 2:37 (NASB95):
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
One commentator[vii] describes this term:
Luke said they were “cut to the heart,” an uncommon word Homer used to depict horses stamping the earth with their hooves (v. 37
Another commentator[viii] writes about Peter’s Pentecost sermon:
The address made a deep impression; the hearers, that is, a large part of them, were “pierced in the heart” (κατενύγησαν), and deeply moved; the sting in the concluding words of the apostle aided largely in producing this result. When we consider the impressions made by his address, we observe that it, primarily, affected the feelings of the hearers. Pain and anguish seized them, when they saw, as they now did, that they had mistaken, despised, ill-treated and crucified Jesus, whom they were at length compelled to recognize as the Messiah and their Lord.
PETER AND THE APOSTLES HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS
Acts 5:27-33 (NASB95) reveals that by preaching the gospel, Peter and the Apostles hurt the feelings of the Jewish leadership. This passage reads:
27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” 33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.
PAUL AND SILAS HURT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS
By preaching the gospel, Paul and Silas hurt the feelings of some of the Jews in Thessalonica. Acts 17:5–9 (NASB95) reads:
5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6 When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.
In fact, these Jews were so hurt that they following Paul and Silas to Berea as described in Acts 17:13 (NASB95):
13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds.
It is clear from the above biblical accounts that preaching the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, which oftentimes means calling sinful behavior sin, hurt people’s feelings. But, that is no reason not to call sinful behavior sin when someone’s eternal destiny is at stake.
What this means to me is that I will try my best to not needlessly hurt people’s feelings by what I write. But, if it entails calling sinful behavior sin and someone’s eternal destiny is in the balance, then I will not hesitate to hurt people’s feelings by calling sinful behavior sin.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change. Today can be the day of your salvation. Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved and a more concise description at my (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).
NOTICE OF PERMISSIONS
I am mindful of and respect the rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. I thus try my best to not violate any copyright rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. The below copyright permission statement is the result of my best efforts to understand that limited usage or “fair use” is available and/or to secure direct permission for specific works. The quotations from commentaries are considered to be “fair use.”
Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “NASB95” are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”
Scripture marked “NCV” is taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
The Scriptures marked “NET” are quoted are from the NET Bible® http://netbible.com copyright ©1996, 2019 used with permission from Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved”.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “GW” is taken from the God’s Word Bible that is a copyrighted work of God’s Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission.
[i] The link to the my first article is My Thoughts about Max Lucado’s Apology to the Washington National Cathedral | Steve Belsheim. The link to my updated article that discusses the 2004 sermon is My Updated Thoughts about Max Lucado’s Apology | Steve Belsheim.
[ii] In the example of a “verbally abusive” person, it appears that v. 11a teaches that this person had a lifestyle of being “verbally abusive.” In other words, when you thought of that person you defined them with the characteristic of being “verbally abusive.” Paul’s use of the Greek verb eimi (lexical form) has the sense of “to have the quality of being.” See Logos 8, Exegetical Guide. The following translations seem to support this position:
NET – Some of you once lived this way.
NASB95 – Such were some of you;
NIV – And that is what some of you were.
NLT – Some of you were once like that.
GW – That’s what some of you were!
[iii] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 89). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[iv] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 433). New York: United Bible Societies.
[v] See a February 12, 2009 article in the Baptist Press entitled “ATHEISM: Penn Gillette Urges Evangelism.” The link is ATHEISM: Penn Jillette urges evangelism – Baptist Press .
[vi] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 337). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
[vii] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 116). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[viii] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Gotthard, V. L., Gerok, C., & Schaeffer, C. F. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Acts (p. 52). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.