(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 07 June 2015)
MY SPIRIT, MY RESPONSIBILITY, OFFENSE
We live in a world which regularly offends us. As we saw last week, offense comes from the Greek word called Scandolin. It’s like a bait that is waiting to hook us.
For e.g. – Suppose I say something to Pramod which offended him. He might appear fine outside, but in his heart he is hurt. He dwells on what I said.
The bait of offense has been cast and he carries me on his back now. (metaphorically)
A little later, he meets his father who probably tells him something that also offends him.
The bait of offense now carries his father too on his back.
Within no time, Pramod will be carrying a host of people who have offended him on his back. Outwardly he might be fine, but in his heart he is writhing in the pain of those offenses.
This is not a new age problem. It has existed right from the beginning. Satan aka Lucifer as he was called then, was an angel of the Lord. He and some of his cronies started getting disgruntled and jealous of God.
Offense was born.
They rebelled against God. God cast them out of Heaven.
On a side note, let me clarify that God gives everyone a free will. Yes, He encourages us to make a good choice. But He doesn’t dictate His will for us. The responsibility of making a good choice is ours. Lucifer made his choice and was cast from God’s presence.
Moving on. Satan deceived Adam and Eve into disobeying God. He sold the bait of offense to them and they bought into it hook, line and sinker. Not only them, he even managed to trap their son Cain. When God favored Abel’s sacrifice, Cain was offended. Envious and angry, he murdered Abel.
No matter how much we may deny it, we are all offended daily. It manifests as hatred, jealousy, anger, wrath, division and murder.
One of the main reasons for our offense is pride. A humble heart is realistically difficult. A few days ago, one of our church members apologized for something that had happened. Initially I brushed it off saying that I wasn’t hurt. But it plagued me so much later as I realized that even though I’d denied it, I really was hurt.
Admitting that we are offended is absolutely fine. But the way we deal with it is important. Let us look at a couple of ways to handle this monstrous hook of offense.
- REFINED LIKE PURE GOLD
In Revelations 3, the Church of Laodicea thinks pretty highly of itself. But God says that they were lukewarm and poor. Often we look at the gloss and money and assume that everything is fine in our lives. Sometimes, even our prosperity blinds us into thinking that things are well in our lives. But God sees our heart and the real ‘us’.
In Revelations 3:18, God says, ‘I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.’ He doesn’t spit them out. He magnanimously gives them a second chance to repent and return. It is interesting to note that Jesus calls them to buy from Him refined gold. Unrefined gold is hard because of the impure metal attached to it. As it goes through the furnace it slowly sheds its impurities and emerges pure and soft.
but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
1 Peter 1:6,7
These verses indicate that God often allows offenses to come our way in order to test and purify us. He doesn’t intend to inflict pain on us sadistically. Instead, He wants to refine us like gold. That can happen only in His presence. As we go through the furnace of offense we can choose to harden our hearts and give into its hold. Or else we can allow God to purify us from hatred, jealousy, anger, strife and every other worldly element.
Many years ago, I used to go to a village to preach and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Some of them would invite me to pray in their houses. Some others would bang the door shut in my face and even hurl abuses at me. I was deeply hurt and offended. I was almost ready to throw in the towel. But God used that tough phase of my life to deal with my anger and frustration. He taught me humility and patience. He asked me to release forgiveness and let go off my hatred. I haven’t been made perfect yet, but He used that occasion to refine me as a goldsmith refines pure gold.
- SOWING IN THE SPIRIT
The Bible says that we must pray for our enemies. It’s not easy to pray for someone who has only hurt us and continues to wish ill on us. But our calling is to stand in the gap and bless the person who hurts us. We are called to sow in the Spirit instead of in the flesh. The Bible says that if we sow flesh for flesh, we will reap corruption. But if we sow spirit for flesh, we will reap a good harvest.
Suppose we tell Jesus that we are unable to forgive someone or pray for him or her. Jesus would look at us and say, ‘You know what? When I came to this earth, I chose 12 disciples. I fed them, provided for them, anointed them and appointed them to be my Gospel proclaimers. But in my toughest hour, one betrayed me, one denied me and the rest ran away. You know what I did? I died on the Cross for them and for the whole world. They sowed flesh to me, but I sowed my life. Today, I reap the harvest of having so many more children in my family. Offense doesn’t help us. Our walking in the Spirit sure does.
Let me share a personal incident where sowing in the Spirit yielded results. A couple of years after our marriage, some of our neighbors complained that we were forcibly converting people to the Christian faith. This was untrue. Of course many people came to know Jesus, were saved and voluntarily expressed their desire to be baptized. But our neighbors painted a different picture. The police arrived and stopped us from having our house fellowship. Our neighbors would swear at us and hurl abuses at us. We were thoroughly hurt and offended. Things deteriorated to such an extent that my wife Anjali miscarried our baby because of the constant abuse. We finally decided to relocate from that neighborhood. Interestingly, God prompted us to visit our neighbors and pray for them before we left. We obeyed. Years have passed. The Church remains open and continues to bring a harvest of lives that believe in Jesus. When something is sown in flesh against us let us sow in Spirit.
- BUILD OUR WALLS
Proverbs 25:28 says, ‘Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
is like a city broken down, without walls.’ There are many walls of unnecessary separation that we must break down. But we must build walls over our spirit so that we aren’t affected by the unnecessary offenses that come hurtling our way. We can’t blame our family, friends and situations for the way we react to offenses. We may hear things that hurt us. Rather than meditating on it and letting it make inroads into our heart, let us wall our hearts. Many of us like hearing juicy gossip that tickles our ears. Let us decide to refrain from talking about or listening to things about others that are offensive. As a principle, we don’t speak ill of any man of God from our Church pulpit. Let us collectively and individually decide to put boundaries and walls around us. If we don’t, then we will end up harming ourselves and in turn, others around us.
We will be offended in this world. But let us choose to allow God to heal our offenses continuously.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.