Did Jesus use blunt language when He confronted people about the truth of the Gospel? Sometimes, but many Christians seem to think that He did this as His standard operating procedure. Not only is that notion untrue, but it also belies the teachings of the apostles who represent Christ. The Lord only used blunt rhetoric with people for four specific reasons.
Jesus rebuked people who followed Him for the wrong reasons. After having created a miraculous feast, He said to the crowd He had fed, “you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill”1 of bread. They followed Jesus not because they rightly valued Him, but because of what He could do for them. They had bought into what, in modern times, we call “the Prosperity Gospel.”
Christ also denounced people who claimed to be His disciples, but didn’t obey His commands. He challenged this group by asking, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”2 They had no true commitment to Him.
Jesus sternly warned people who refused to believe that He is the Savior despite all evidence that they should. He once lamented, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness”3 about His identity.
Most notably, however, Jesus criticized those who put barriers between people and God. He condemned the experts of ancient Judaism for having “shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”4 This was His fiercest complaint.
Christians ought to imitate Jesus by holding people accountable for the aforementioned sins. But how should we interact with those who are not clearly ignoring evidence of Jesus’ identity, or following Him for the wrong reasons or nominal believers or creating artificial barriers (or false bridges) between people and God? Scripture suggests that the prevailing standard of behavior should be grace.
At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, many who heard His preaching “marveled at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth.”5 The Apostle Paul admonished believers to follow that example and “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”6 Paul also warned Christians to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” but instead to speak in a way that “may give grace to those who hear.”7 Gracious speech should be our default.
Sadly I have primarily heard Christians use Jesus’ more heated exchanges with people as an excuse to belittle non-believers over their immorality. But most non-Christians (deep down) already understand their immorality. They don’t need us to point that out. What they usually need is for us to remind — or explain to — them the path of repentance and forgiveness. That is the most Christlike (and gracious) thing to communicate.
1. John 6:26
2. Luke 6:46
3. John 10:25
4. Matthew 23:13
5. Luke 4:22
6. Colossians 4:6
7. Ephesians 4:29
By: Raymond Billy
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