(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 24 May 2015)
We have been looking at what it means to be a Son of God. Romans 8:14, 16 says that, ‘14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.’ The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit and our spirit testifies whether we are walking as sons of God.
Last week, we saw about how our spirit is when we face failures and successes. Today, let’s continue to understand how our spirit responds to offense.
THE OFFENSE PLAGUE
My wife Anjali and our children were away in Pune for a couple of days. Something offended her when she away and like a good husband I tried to counsel her. She didn’t want to talk about it and so just walled herself. Her unresponsiveness offended me. So when the Sunday service planning team were discussing about this Sunday’s schedule, I said that my sermon would be about ‘My spirit, My Responsibility’ with the theme ‘No Offense’. Pat came Anjali’s response, “So you are preaching about me?” I responded that often God spoke to me through her!!’
We were clearly offended by each other!!
Interestingly, this topic of offense kept being played out in so many people’s lives through this week. Here’s another incident that happened just yesterday. At my request, our friend Barnabas agreed to postpone his trip to his family in Kerala until the Sunday service was over. His wife got offended because it seemed to her that he was prioritizing me over her. Her response offended Barnabas and me. Meanwhile, Anjali and the children were returning home from their Pune trip, and Himanshu and Barnabas had agreed to pick them up. The plan was for Himanshu to meet Barnabas at my place at a particular time and together they were to set out. Himanshu reached late and snapped at Barnabas to hurry. This offended Barnabas because it wasn’t his fault that Himanshu had gotten late. Himanshu on the other hand was offended because Barnabas accused him. Whew!! There seemed to be a truck load of offenses in so many people’s lives in just one week!!!!
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT BEING OFFENDED?
Jesus told His disciples in Luke 17:1 that, ‘It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!’ We live in a world which offends as well as is offended every now and then. We can’t avoid it. Let’s quickly see what happens when we are offended.
1) It will leave us either stronger or bitter.
We won’t be able to come out unaffected. I know of a Christian family which was destroyed
because of a small mistake. The husband and wife had a tiff over something. So they decided to never talk to each other. They continued to live together under the same roof for 16 years but refused to break the ice. They would communicate through their children. One day, the man passed away in his sleep because of a heart attack. He had not spoken even one word to his wife. A small offense literally tore the family apart.
2) The pain of the offense is excruciating especially when the offender is someone close to us.
David was a soldier who won many battles over the enemy. However, he was heartbroken and unprepared when Saul whom he loved like a father and friend turned against him. In Psalm 41:9, David anguishes that, ‘Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.’ The pain that follows when our loved ones offend and hurt us leaves us broken.
3) The offense is a result of our unmet expectations.
Many of us set different levels of expectation from the people around us. For e.g.,
a) From the World – Zero %
b) From a nominal Christian – 20%
c) From a good leader – 50%.
d) From a pastor – 100% expectation.
e) From a spouse – 110%.
So when a nominal Christian meets 10% of our expectation, we are hurt. Of course, he has met our expectation 10% more than the world, but not the complete 20% that we had set for him. Offense steps into the gap left by the unmet expectation.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Imagine walking up to Jesus with our offense. Jesus would say this, ‘Yes, I understand that you have been offended. But guess what? When I came to this earth I’d picked 12 men. I fed them, nurtured them, taught them, put a roof over their head and footed all their bills. But in my greatest need, one betrayed me, one denied me and nine took off. I could have called legions of angels who would have destroyed my enemies. But I chose not to do that. I chose to die for them. Three days later, I rose again and sat at the right hand of my Father. I interceded not just for my disciples but for the whole world.’ Jesus modeled for us what to do when an offense comes our way. Galatians 6:8 says that, ‘For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.’ When we are offended by someone, instead of repaying in the same manner, let us sow back in the Spirit by praying, blessing, affirming and honoring the offender. Then we will reap a great harvest.
THE HOOK OF OFFENSE
A story is told of someone who visited the devil’s workshop. He looked around and remarked
to the Devil, ‘Hey! You have so many tools. All of them appear new except for this hook like one. It appears to be a used one’. The devil responded that it was the only tool that he kept using repeatedly against mankind.
The meaning of the word ‘offense’ in Greek is ‘a hook’. A hook latches on to its target and binds. When we are offended by someone, the question is not about the right and wrong of it but about how the offense impacts us. Every time we are offended, it bothers us. It nags our mind constantly. For e.g. if our friend is offended by me, it will weigh on his mind. The hook of offense has been cast on to his back. He bends a little. Then when someone else tells him something offensive, that will also bug him. The hook is cast again. Now he is carrying the weight of two people’s offense. Slowly, as the number of offenders increase, the weight on his back increases too. Now, the people whom he is carrying on his back may not even realize that they have hurt him. But he for sure has been affected. The question for us is – how many people are we carrying on our backs?
The enemy is cunning and wants to oppress us and keep us weighed down by offenses. But God
wants to set us free so that we can live our destiny in this world.
Our Spirit is our responsibility. Let us depend on God and declare that we will not allow any offense to break us.
SO HOW DO WE DEAL WITH IT?
Jesus modeled how to deal with offenses. He told us to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5. But we often might not feel like doing that for someone who has gossiped against or harmed us. We can do it only with God’s help by praying for them. When we do that, we are sowing in the Spirit. Our assurance of dealing with offense mustn’t be on our expectation but on the love of Jesus. Jesus loved and now we can live it out.
When someone doesn’t fulfill our expectations, we must respond to them lovingly. When we do that, it blesses our hearts more than anything.
A couple of years ago, I co-ordinated a ‘Peace and healing festival’ in Tambaram. It was a crusade organized along with many other churches in Chennai. One of the pastors was offended by me (I still don’t know the reason) and bad mouthed me. He kept criticizing that I was young and didn’t know what I was doing and that I was simply wasting time. I was very hurt and even thought of confronting him. Instead, I felt the Lord pressing my heart to pray for him. At last, the days of the festival arrived. It was pouring heavily all across the city. You wouldn’t believe this, but not a single drop fell over our venue. And to add to that blessing, over 2000 people attended every day. On the last evening, it started raining even at our venue. We locked ourselves in and prayed. By 6 o’clock, the rain stopped and the Crusade happened as planned. That evening, many miracles and healings happened at the Crusade. While facing an offense, instead of reacting negatively to it, we must submit ourselves to God and sow good seeds in the Spirit. When we do thus, God will work miracles for the good of the people that will bring glory to His name. With God, all things are possible!
If any of us are offended by somebody in our lives we don’t have to lose heart. We can decide today to forsake the hook and chain of offense tying us down. It might be hard but it’s not impossible. We are precious in God’s sight and He will help us when we pray and ask Him. Let’s live out that freedom in God’s presence.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.