Offend Pharisees

June 23, 2021


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Who are you going to offend?

That is one of the most important questions a man has to ask and answer. This I promise you: you’re going to offend someone! So who will it be? If you’re afraid of offending people, you’ll offend God. If you’re afraid of offending God, you’ll offend people. It’s one or the other!

My advice? Offend Pharisees! That’s what Jesus did, and he did it with great intentionality and consistency.

My natural tendency is that of a peacemaker, and on occasion, that’s Christlike. But more often than not, it’s conflict avoidance. Yes, Jesus calmed the storm. But He also rocked the boat. Jesus didn’t avoid conflict, He often caused it. Why? Because Jesus knew that conflict, not comfort, is the catalyst for growth.

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a young leader and as a young father was trying to make everyone comfortable, but in the long run that doesn’t do anybody any favors. I’ve since redefined my job description as a pastor and as a father:

My job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and the latter is not less loving than the former. It’s more so!

Comforting the afflicted is love.

Afflicting the comfortable is tough love!

It is so much easier to just avoid conflict isn’t it? So we delay discipline, but in the long run that hurts our children more than it helps them. Or we postpone tough conversations because we lack the emotional energy or the emotional courage.

Tough love demands tough decisions and tough conversations.

Jesus could have healed any day of the week, but he often chose the Sabbath. Why? Because he knew it’d be twice as fun! Why not kill two birds with one stone—heal sick bodies while getting under the thin skin of self-righteous Pharisees! Jesus knew it would get their goat, and that’s why he did it. He was goading them. And that’s what you do when you love someone. It’s called tough love.

The words of the wise are like goads.

A goad was a spiked stick used for driving cattle.

Now let me nuance this a little bit, because it’s not a license to hurt people!

It’s got to be the right words, at the right time, in the right spirit.

If you have an agenda, keep your hurtful words to yourself. If you’re simply venting your frustration or saying something that will make you feel better about yourself, don’t bother because it will backfire.

You must genuinely have the other person’s best interest at heart. And bookend your goading with lots of affirmation! That’s how you speak the truth in love.

As I look back on my life, you know who I respect the most? It’s not those who “took it easy on me.” It’s those who pushed me to my potential, then pushed me past it. I didn’t always like it at the time, but it was their goading that led to growth.

Who do you need to goad?

And who have you licensed to goad you?

Playing the man doesn’t allow pussyfooting. This is an area I’ve had to grow in as a conflict avoider. Postponing tough conversations only makes them more difficult. It also robs us of the opportunity for growth.

Iron doesn’t sharpen iron without friction.

Excerpted from Play the Man published by Baker Books.

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.


  1. Benjamin on June 24, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes Pastor Mark! This is real man stuff! This is real love! This is Jesus the Christ!

  2. anneliese macedo on July 3, 2021 at 8:22 pm

    I needed this word….so much….Thx!

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