(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 31 May 2015)
MY SPIRIT, MY RESPONSIBILITY, MY OFFENSE
WHAT’S WRONG WITH US?
As you probably know, traditional churches have a responsive style of service. So a pastor of one such church usually would stand in front and say, ‘Peace of the Lord be with you!’ The congregation would respond, ‘And with you’. One Sunday as the pastor stood up to greet the congregation he realized that the mike wasn’t working. So he turned to the person in charge of the sound system and said, ‘Something is wrong with the mike’. The congregation saw the pastor’s mouth movement but didn’t hear him. They assumed that it was part of the normal greeting and responded loudly, ‘And also with you’!!!
As funny as it is, there is an element of truth in this anecdote. The truth is that that there is something definitely wrong with all of us.
Let’s see what it is.
Once we attended a church conference in Almora. At the end of the three day conference, I went around saying goodbye to people. Just before boarding the car, I noticed a group of women and a man. I approached them, shook hands and said ‘Praise the Lord’. As I extended my hand to the gentleman, he refused to take it. I was taken aback by his rudeness. To top it, his wife called further attention to the situation by commenting on what happened. I felt humiliated, hurt and offended. I got into the car and we drove away. But it took me quite a while to overcome my emotional angst. Sadly, by the time I became calm, we had left the Himalayas and were on the plains. Nursing my offense and anger, I’d missed enjoying the beauty of the Himalayas.
WHAT’S AN OFFENSE?
Offense comes from a Greek word called ‘Scandolin’. It refers to that part of the trap where the bait is usually hung. It is not surprising that Satan uses offense as a bait to capture us into a life of hurt, anger and hatred.
Here are three reasons for most of our offenses.
1) UNRESOLVED ISSUES OF LIFE
2nd Samuel 13 describes Absalom’s handling of unresolved issues in his life. Absalom was King David’s son and he had a beautiful sister called Tamar. His half-brother Amnon was infatuated with Tamar. One day he raped her. King David heard about it and was furious. But the Bible doesn’t record any action that he took against Amnon. All of this offended Absalom. He didn’t confront Amnon or do anything about it right then. Though outwardly he looked fine, within his heart he was angry with Amnon. He dwelt on it and soon it ballooned into hatred. Two years later, his hatred drove him to murdering Amnon.
What started as an offense that could have been resolved soon ended up in murder. Bible says that this incident set into motion a chain of events which ultimately led to Absalom’s death.
Outwardly our lives too might look picture perfect. But inwardly we might be stuffing things away. Hatred, anger, hurt, disappointments are all slowly being tucked away deep into the recesses of our hearts. Then one day when we can’t hold it in anymore, it will explode on our faces. Let us be careful. Let us deal with our unresolved issues so that we can be set free from the bait of scandolin.
Soon after our marriage, one day my husband scolded me for using his comb. I had used it and forgotten to clean it. So when he picked it up much later, he saw my long hair stuck in it. He was already in a bad mood and on seeing my long hair stuck in his comb he lost his cool and lashed out at me. I was shocked at his tone. I didn’t reply to it. Many years later, we were out somewhere and my hair was messy. So he offered his comb. I refused to use it. He was surprised and enquired the reason. I reminded him about the incident where he had scolded me for using his comb in the past. My husband had forgotten about it. But I had nursed this offense silently and it had lain unresolved in my heart for a long time!!
2) UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” – Matthew 11:2-6
If there was one person who’d have been certain of the Messiah’s identity, it ought to have been John the Baptist. The Bible refers to him as the forerunner of Jesus. He was the first to identify Jesus as the Lamb of God. He was the one who witnessed the Holy Spirit descending as a dove on Jesus. He alone heard God’s voice from Heaven declaring that Jesus was His Son and that He was pleased with Jesus. So despite such crystal clear evidences, John questioned whether Jesus really was the Messiah. Of course John was imprisoned at this point on a baseless and false charge. He might have expected the Messiah to come to his aid and set him free. As hope of such a delivery ebbed, John got offended. His unmet expectation caused him to doubt whether Jesus really was the Messiah.
Unrealistic expectations contribute to our offense. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. There surely will arise occasions when our expectations aren’t met. But it will help us to remember during those times about our conditions. The Gospels narrate incidences of the sick, broken hearted and hopeless people coming to Jesus for healing. Often we are also such broken people who need a Savior’s healing touch. Why then should we raise our expectations from people in similar conditions around us? We will only be setting ourselves up to being disappointed and offended. Let us look at people with eyes of God-given grace than with manmade magnifying glasses.
3) UNFULFILLED DESIRES OR WANTS
1 Kings 21 describe the ramifications of one man’s greed in numerous lives. King Ahab was very wealthy. One day he saw his neighbor Naboth’s vineyard and coveted it. Naboth refused the king’s request for the vineyard because it was his inheritance. The king was offended and started sulking. His wicked wife Jezebel heard all that had transpired and hatched a plot to get Naboth stoned. She thereafter proceeded to give the vineyard to her husband. Then God spoke through Prophet Elijah and declared to Ahab that Ahab and Jezebel’s heinous crime would be avenged. Elijah prophesied that Ahab would be killed and his blood would licked by the dogs. Guess what? Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled to the T! Unfulfilled desires led to offense which in turn resulted in murder and destruction.
How do we respond when someone takes our favorite spot in church or when we don’t get a good appraisal or a job that we were pining for? Do we get offended and sulk about it? Or are we willing to turn that over to God to deal with?
Some time back, my son Jhunu and I were waiting at an airport. Our flight was delayed and in order to calm my restless son, I pulled out an expensive toy car that he had received as a gift. He settled down to playing with it. A little later, I heard our flight’s boarding announcement. So we rushed to the aircraft. Once we were tucked in and as the fight was preparing for takeoff, I realized that we had forgotten Jhunu’s toy car at the lounge. I was very disappointed. So I told Jhunu about his toy. Initially he didn’t respond. When I repeated myself, he replied nonchalantly, ‘So what? We can buy another one.’ Even though I was taken aback, I grudgingly realized that there was a grain of truth somewhere in his words. Adults dwell on our losses and unfulfilled desires for years. These unfulfilled desires grow into huge offenses.
There are many things that can offend us. But our manner of handling our offense matters greatly. Let us introspect and check if there are any unresolved issues, unrealistic expectations and unfulfilled desires that we are reeling under. God
invites us to lay our baggage and offenses on Him because He promises to give us rest.
Let us model Jesus who had every right to be offended by us. We fail Him constantly. But He waits to patiently work with us. He can do that only when we understand that it’s our spirit, our responsibility and our offense.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.