I think that this is because most people in the real world have absolutely zero touch points with the actual person of Jesus Christ. At best they have a vague understanding of Christianity, but this is really a nod a moralist, therapeutic, deity. And at worst they lump me in with the 12 crazies who are from Wesboro church who long to picket how much "God hates fags!"
But both of these extremes still miss the actual person of Jesus. And even if i could find a way to cut through the cultural clutter that negatively impacts their first or second impressions of Jesus, when they actually get to know Him, they are going to be even more offended. For as much as we long to preset Jesus as this giant oozer of never ending, cuddly love and grace, there is an awful part that is offensive to all.
Jesus asks us to pick up our cross, die to our self, and then follow Him!
This is the true reason the entire world has not embraced Jesus. It has nothing to do with poor theology or even poor ambassadors, it has to do that humans are fundamentally prideful and rebellious. We are the rulers of our own life and we might be open to a God who will improve our life, but who wants to be in the driver seat and asks us to consider others above ourselves, to have temperance, and build up somebody else's platform, that is just too much.
In some truly miraculous encounter, Jesus met me and somehow made it clear that my life is much better and more valuable when I figure out how to die to myself. And in that exchange, his life took my death, my death in exchange for his life, my life has been forever changed. Jesus has healed me, transformed me, and saved me in every possible way! For those who have also surrender their lives to Jesus get to bear the name Christian and begin to have their entire worldview transform.
This narrative is very different than the one that is shared by most people in my context. Where I live, there is a competing worldview, a worldview that is the exact opposite of the one Jesus' followers have. Instead of Jesus, His glory, His purposes, and His plan taking center stage, this alternate worldview has the self as the center. In this world view it is the self striving for primacy, and everything else is subject to self fulfillment, it is the world view of hedonism.
Hedonism: the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life.
So often we think of hedonism as simply pleasure, and usually sexual pleasure. And of course there are plenty of ways to push back and say that pleasure and sexual pleasure is not the chief world view of our context. However, I think the broader definition, the definition that includes happiness is the the core world view of our context.
It is this simple pursuit of happiness that has been lifted higher than other noble pursuits to be of the highest aim. And to make it even more distinct, it is simply the pursuit of the individual. This is why amorality, tolerance, and zero personal responsibility are becoming halmarks of our context. For whatever "rules" or "mores" that happen to get in the way of my personal pursuit of happiness and fulfillment, they all of the sudden become gray and situational ethics rules the day. And everyone who justifies their choices do so with their own personal well-being at the forefront.
Where I live, everyone is good! We are all upstanding citizens. We give to charity, care for our bodies and the environment, and some are even activists in justice causes. On the surface many of these pursuits are good and noble, but what is different in my context is that they are really done because the make the person feel good about themselves. In every one of these they only give, "sacrifice," conserve, to a level that really doesn't impact others or help the cause, but is enough to make them feel better about themselves.
The self is King!
And while this statement as been humanity's problem since the garden, what has changed is the loss of other attributes and values that temper this lust for self-fulfillment. Chivalry, temperance, humility, charity, self-sacrifice, used to be other values that tempered the flesh's continual desire to consume all of life. But as these other values wain, what is left is unadulterated hedonism. And what makes it worse, in our context this form of hedonism actually looks like nobility.
Everyone I know is trying to give Jesus and the Church new PR. They do this with pop culture, movies, the debate on sexuality, the care for the poor, you name it. But at the end of the day, the best PR in the world does not and will not change the offensive truth that Jesus alone is king.
In order to be in right relationship with God, we must submit to Jesus. There is nothing that can smooth over this offensive statement.
The trick is making sure that, at least, people are being offended by the right things.
I strive to live a life that oozes the love and grace of Jesus with everyone I come in contact with. My aim is to model the life of Jesus who extended mercy at all costs. Theology, lifestyle, worldview, social status never hindered Jesus and his grace and mercy. I want to take all obstacles away so that people may encounter Jesus.
But even if I work so hard and continually die to myself and model grace, Jesus and his call will always be offensive.
May we not get caught up in smoke screen arguments about why people won't embrace Jesus. His call is an offensive one. But may we, as his disciples, not feel compelled to take on that mantle.