I think Solomon was onto something when he said “there is nothing new under the sun.” The fuller context of his assertion was this,
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
This is certainly true of our current cancel culture climate. It may have a new name, but the actual act of attacking and attempting to eliminate people and ideas from a society is nothing new under the sun, it was here before our time. Jesus, Himself was a victim of cancel culture in His day. It just went by a different name at the time. (stoning, persecution, execution, beheading (John the Baptist) a lion’s den) There were lots of ways to cancel those voices and those people whose words and ideas made other people uncomfortable and so offended them. Jesus was ridiculed, persecuted, arrested, beaten and eventually killed because of His message. The message of the Gospel was offensive to many and they wanted Jesus silenced.
Death on a cross seemed the surest way to cancel Christ and His message of forgiveness and eternal life from God. Who could have predicted He would rise again on the third day and hang out with His disciples for the next several days? Well, actually the Scriptures did predict exactly this, but I guess no one was paying much attention?
Why did the established religious leaders of Jesus’s day want to see Him cancelled? They didn’t like the message He was proclaiming to the masses. People were receiving this “good news” about the Kingdom of God with joy, but there were those in power who were offended by Jesus’s words. In fact, they were so offended that they wanted Jesus silenced, for good. How could the same message be received so differently by the people in the communities in which Jesus proclaimed God’s word? 1 Corinthians 1:18 explains it this way,
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Perspective is everything, isn’t it? So what is the “offense” of the gospel? What did the people to whom Jesus was speaking find so offensive in His words? John 1:11 tells us,
“He (Jesus) came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” Why? John 3:19-21 explains,
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
That’s why they were offended. Their deeds were evil and their evil deeds were being exposed by the Light that Jesus’s presence brought into the world. (“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:4) They were also offended by the truth. Jesus brought Truth because He is the Truth. (“We have seen His (Jesus) glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14) Jesus came bringing light, grace and truth. Many find the truth of the Gospel offensive. Romans 3:22-26 reveals this truth that offends so many who hear it,
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
Truth – everyone has sinned! Everyone falls short of God’s standard! Truth – Anyone can be justified by God’s grace. Anyone can be redeemed by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. That was part of the offense of the Gospel message – it was for everyone – no one was excluded. The rich and the powerful resented any message which included the poor and the powerless in God’s coming kingdom. They had held their monopoly on God for so long. These rich, ruling class people were not about to entertain the truth that God’s love and mercy were extended towards every person, regardless of social status, ethnic group, gender, age or nationality. Jesus words made clear that everyone was included when He said,
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:22)
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
But the Pharisees, high priests and other religious and government leaders in positions of power and influence didn’t want to hear that God’s favor was for everyone, which would include the masses of the poor, the uneducated, women (who were excluded from participation in all things) criminals, the enslaved, the overlooked, the lame, the lost (we would call them the marginalized or the disenfranchised today) these were the people to whom Jesus was proclaiming God’s love and salvation. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day didn’t want to lose their power, position, privileged lifestyle and the influence they maintained over the masses by claiming to represent God and therefore administering God’s rules among the people. But if the good news of the Gospel was for everyone, as Jesus said it was, then they would lose their power over those they had been keeping beneath them while elevating themselves and even getting rich at their expense.
And so they were offended by the words Jesus spoke, outraged even. The truth of equality for each and every person in God’s kingdom was not something they wanted people to know. (“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.’ ” Acts 10:34-35) In fact, some of Jesus words were just too radical to accept. (ie. “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:30) This truth was offensive to them and this offense justified being met with cancellation. They were also offended by the truth that they could not create their own righteousness before God by obeying the law. Righteousness is from God, not from the Law. Romans 3:21,
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”
We are sinners. That truth may offend us but it is true nevertheless. We need a Savior. We may not want to hear that truth, but it is still true. We cannot save ourselves by obeying the law. We cannot trust in our own goodness because we don’t have any. This is a message the Pharisees did not want to hear – a truth they did not want to acknowledge. They had relied for so long on their own ability to keep all the Jewish laws handed down to them with some additions and embellishments along the way that they did not want to admit their failure or their need of a Savior. They wanted to maintain their power, position, influence and their prestigious status and lifestyle at any cost. The cost was the cancellation of the truth and of anyone who dared to speak the truth. However, it was hard to insist they alone were righteous in light of these words from Scripture –
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 53:1-3)
Voices of truth – they always strike fear into the hearts of those who do evil. And out of fear, these people attempt to silence Truth’s voices. They cover them up, they shout them down, they cancel them. John the Baptist was “a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” Those in power didn’t want the announcement of the long awaited Messiah’s arrival to be heard. Beheading cancelled John the Baptist’s voice. But not the voice of the Truth.
God’s Truth may offend, but His words are necessary, lifesaving and lifegiving. Truth is often hard to hear because it is not always pretty. (guess that’s why they call it the “ugly truth”) But God’s truth accomplishes His good purposes in us and in this world.
” . . . but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10-11)
We are to be trained by the Truth. In Deuteronomy 32:46-47, Moses tells the Israelites this about God’s Word,
“Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you – they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
These words of truth are my life, I am told in Deuteronomy. Words that those in power tried desperately to cancel two thousand years ago by silencing those that proclaimed them, are still here today. The voice of Truth has not been silenced, nor banished from the earth, although many have tried. And they are still attempting to cancel and to silence Truth today. In many countries it is illegal to own and to read a Bible and to gather with others to listen to God’s word being spoken out loud. Still we have Jesus’s assurance,
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
Truth will triumph over cancel culture every time. Should you and I remain silent out of fear, other voices will take up the cry. In fact, when the Pharisees told Jesus to order His followers to be quiet when they were celebrating Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, Jesus’s response is telling,
” ‘I tell you,’ He replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ ” (Luke 19:40) The Living Bible translation says, ” . . . the stones along the road will burst into cheers!”
It seems the culture found Jesus’s words offensive then, (they crucified Him) just as they had found the words of God’s prophets, like Jeremiah, offensive in their day, (they stoned the prophets). However, cancel culture cannot silence God’s words to His world today, anymore than it could on that day so long ago, when they ordered Jesus’s disciples to stop praising Him. Truth is often offensive in that it is not what we want to hear but God’s truth will save us and set us free.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
I confess – I too often let fear silence the truth I would speak. But even when I am silent, God’s creation is not.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)
“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:5-9)
no culture can cancel God’s voice – it fills the earth –
sincerely, Grace Day