Was Jesus Politically Correct?

Jesus mosaic

OLITICALLY CORRECT language is speech that is calculated to provide a minimum of offense. This idea sounds good, and many people in the public eye or the public sector (politicians, educators, and those in the media) assume a Christian should agree and comply. While any sincere Christian would acknowledge we must walk in love, there remains the question of where we draw the line between providing a minimum of offense and speaking the truth of God’s Word.

Many Christian leaders have argued that political correctness is merely a tactic used by secularists to silence their opponents—many of whom reside in the Christian community. This causes constant frustrations because while pressure is leveled against the Christian to keep quiet concerning social and political issues, the secularist liberal plays the hypocrite. This is seen when the secularist’s politically correct paradigm applies only to those he or she desires to silence.

Where does this leave the Christian? What does Scripture reveal about this idea of political correctness? Do we have examples in the Bible we can emulate regarding our response to the depravity of our culture? No examples in Scripture carry the same weight as Jesus’ example. So, how did Jesus respond to accusations? Was He politically correct?

An Outspoken Savior

Jesus was very outspoken, and on many occasions He called the religious leaders of His day hypocrites. In Matthew 12:24-37, we see how the religious leaders, who were very cozy in their relationship with the Roman government, tried to accuse Jesus of being a follower of Satan. Jesus did not back down from them, but called them an evil “brood of vipers” (v. 34 NKJV).

In John 2:13-18, Jesus drove the moneychangers from the Temple with a whip. In Matthew 23:27, He told the Pharisees and teachers of the Law they were “white-washed tombs,” looking beautiful on the outside but inside “full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (NIV). In light of His outspokenness, it is important to note Jesus never sinned (Heb. 9:14).

What About Love?

Some might say, “Jesus may have been outspoken, but He commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, love our enemies, turn the other cheek, do good to those who hate us, and bless those who curse us.” Three points will help put these truths into perspective.

1. Love always speaks the truth. Through the apostle Paul, the Lord gave us a comprehensive definition of love:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7 NKJV).

The biblical definition of love calls us to be a doorway, not a doormat. Nothing in this definition instructs Christians to compromise their beliefs. Love gives us the grace (God’s ability in us) to present truth unselfishly for the benefit of others and to the glory of God. Love is the very reason we speak the truth God has given us. His truth has the power to make us free.

2. Shouldn’t love motivate us to share the gospel with the unsaved? If the answer is yes, then how should we treat our neighbor?

If I love my neighbor, then I will desire for him to hear the biblical truths that set me free. This might mean I have to speak boldly and plainly to my neighbor about principles from God’s Word, at the same time understanding that my neighbor may not desire to hear them.

3. The command to “love our enemies” assumes we have enemies. No one in his right mind goes looking for enemies; but on the other hand, Jesus warned us if the world hated Him, we would also be hated (John 15:18). Why would we have to turn the other cheek unless we had already been struck once? Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22 NKJV).

Jesus was not hated because He was passive or kept to Himself, never stirring anyone up with His words. It was just the opposite during the majority of His earthly ministry. If Jesus were physically in the earth today, He would be hated just as much . . . and killed. The secular world would not tolerate a sinless and outspoken Man walking in our midst any more today than they did two thousand years ago. Yet, according to the Bible, Jesus is still in the earth spiritually through His body—the Church. In today’s world, whom does the liberal media consistently broadcast as being a threat to our American culture, whether subliminally or out-right? Evangelical Christians.

Stephen’s Example

In Acts 6, we meet Stephen—an excellent example of someone who spoke the truth without apology. He was “full of faith and power” (v. 8), but members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen disputed with him (v. 9). However, his religious accusers “were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (v. 10). Their carnal nature was aroused to anger against the truth for which they had no response.

If we back away today from proclaiming biblical truths, then what will be required of us tomorrow?

Stephen’s encounter with the anti-Christian elitists of his era could easily happen today when Christians debate with wisdom from God’s Word through the leading of the Holy Spirit. We may discover that those who are intolerant of biblical truths cannot intelligently, or even rationally, rebut the wisdom of God’s Word. This should not keep us from exposing them to the light of biblical Christianity. In Stephen’s case, those with whom he had debated “stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes” (v. 12). They seized Stephen and “set up false witnesses” against him (v. 13).

A similar scenario sometimes develops in our politically correct culture today when Christians begin voicing their opinions too loudly. The left-wing media and political elites will mischaracterize Christians to the point of absurdity. Like Stephen’s antagonists, they will set up false witnesses in order to distract others from paying attention to the truth. Once again, their goal is to silence Christians because they are threatened by the message.

How did Stephen handle having false witnesses set up against him? Did he back down for the sake of tolerance and political correctness? Was he distracted by all the lies? Just the opposite. After being seized, he preached a powerful and authoritative message. He concluded by saying, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in the heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (7:51 NKJV). Then he called them “betrayers and murderers” (v. 52). He made them so furious, they “gnashed at him with their teeth” (v. 54 NKJV).

Does sharing the truth of God’s Word always have to be so dramatic? Of course not! Jesus had many pleasant conversations with people. Peaceful communication hopefully describes the majority of conversations we have about the Lord. Yet, is it unchristian to be passionately vocal when we encounter anti-Christian rhetoric, whether it is in the form of speech, attitudes, proposed legislation, or media broadcasts? In those times we need to have the same confidence and stamina Jesus and Stephen exhibited, which was a result of faith in God’s Word and walking in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Unfruitful Apologies

Offering apologies for biblical truth is unfruitful. It minimizes the seriousness of sin while bringing into doubt the inerrancy of Scripture. Worst of all, it makes Christians appear as though we are double-minded and unsure of our own convictions. Should we avoid rudeness and personal attacks? Of course we must. Walking in love must be at the core of our motivation as Christians. At the same time, we must not yield to the underlying tone in our culture encouraging Christians to offer excuses or regrets for believing exactly what the Bible teaches. For that, there should be no apologies.

Political correctness is a bottomless pit. If we back away today from proclaiming biblical truths, then what will be required of us tomorrow? If need be, we must be willing to stand alone in our convictions.

What was the result of the uncompromising, non-apologetic, faith-filled outspokenness of the disciples in the early church? Signs and wonders, the Lord adding to the church daily, and the world being turned upside down (Acts 2:43, 47; 17:6)! May this happen through us.


Jeff Canfield is the pastor of Word of Life Church in Sullivan, Indiana, and the author of several books. This article is largely excerpted from When Church and Government Collide.

From October, 2012