Friday, November 23, 2012

The consequences of taking up offense

Mark 6:3 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

They thought they were dealing with a "safe" Jesus
Jesus was rounding out the first year of his public ministry.  His ministry circuit in Galilee would take him to Nazareth, the town where he grew up.  In Mark 6:1-2 we pick up the narrative: "1Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. 2When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?"' These people had known Jesus from his childhood days growing up.  They were familiar with him - or at least they thought they were. 

Jesus crossed their line - they took up the offense
The people of Nazareth had drawn lines around Jesus, pigeonholed him and concluded he was just "one of the boys" so to speak.  Upon his return, Jesus very quickly shattered their pre-conceived notions.  The Bible tells us that they uttered what they thought they knew about Jesus.  Their description of Jesus was a view of Jesus that was safe, non-threatening and non-intrusive.    However it was very clear - they had drawn a line that Jesus had crossed.  The people of Nazareth took up the offense and chose to remain bitter, rather than get right and get better. 

As saw yesterday, offenses come in this world.  Whenever you and I get angry at someone, it can be over something petty or over something that is downright wrong they have done to us.  The point being is that a line has been cross - preceived or unperceived.  What happens when we bear the grudge?  Note some key characteristics of these people in Nazareth as a case study of the consequences of taking up offense:

1. Refusal to honor Christ's authority. Mark 6:4
Jesus stated that a prophet is without honor in his hometown.  This fits in line with the modern day saying of "familiarity breeds contempt".  Whenever we take up offense, we will find ourselves progressively refusing to give honor to Jesus Christ.  The Bible is the authority of Christ written, since it is classified as the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)  People who take up offense will over time grow cynical to either God's word or spiritual authorities who minister in the name of Jesus.  Clearly these people would not honor Jesus.

2. Restriction of God's power.  Mark 6:5
The scripture says "he was not able to do many miracles".  Because the people took up the offense against Jesus, the consuequence was the limiting of the demonstration of God's power in their lives.  Whenever we are either defeated in our Christian walk or see defeat in another person's life, it is guaranteed that somewhere in the past  that individual took up offense.  Its as if they shut off God's power in that area.  Jesus did heal a few people, but not many.  Unless the offended person forgives and puts off the malice and anger that they have been carrying around, the power of God will not be fully experienced in their lives.

3. Rejection. Mark 6:5
I would add this third consequence of taking up offense - rejection.  Rejection describes the spiritual dimension of operating in resentment. When I say rejection, I mean that a person who is bearing offense will not receive a legitimate offer of help.  I believe Jesus was restricted physically as well as supernaturally by these people.  Because they could not get past their perception of Jesus as "mary's son", they simply refused His attempts to minister.  No doubt the restriction of God's power led to so-few healings, but I would also suggest that practically speaking, these people left Jesus.  I have had times in my life where I bore up offense, and whenever someone tried to help me, I got angry and thought they were patronizing me.  I know what it is like, and can tell you plainly that only through the cross and forgiveness can the bondage of rejection produced by offense be broken. 

4. Repeats and grows worse if not let go. Matthew 13:53-57
In Matthew 13:53-57 we see Jesus return back to Nazareth after a period of time to attempt a second round of ministry.  Amazingly these people were still hanging onto their offense.  In fact the identicle words are repeated by them, indicating that they had not changed.  Matthew 13:56-57 states "And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief."

Whenever you and I take up offense, if left unchecked, our hurt and pain will start sounding like a broken record.  We will become "frozen" in the time and memory of those events.  An offense taken up years ago will still be fresh in the mind of the hurt person.  Presented with the same opportunity will issue forth the same response, the same hurt.  Furthermore, the hurt and pain can be repeated in others around us, which is why Hebrews 12:15 warns us to "not let a root of bitterness to rise up in us, lest we defile many". 

5. Root of offense is unbelief.  Mark 6:6; Matthew 13:57
So when did unbelief factor into the offense?  By the response.   You and I dear friend cannot, in a lot of ways, control others, nor our circumstances nor the level of hurt that may come at us.  However there is one thing we can control - our response.  If as a Christian I take my anger and resentment and "cast all my anxiety upon the Lord", the Bible promises "He will take care of you". (1 Peter 5:7).  Faith says: Lord, I don't know how to forgive, however you through me is more than able to love and forgive.  Thus I will be in you everything you want. Offense will prefer to "hang on" to the resentment, not ever speaking to God about it.  For those who have been truly hurt by careless or vindictive people, unchecked anger will lead you to conclude that God can do nothing about it.  This is why James 1:20 states: "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God". (ESV) 

Forgiveness is the quickest route to be healed of the consequences of offense
James 4:6-7 tells us: "6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  I love this passage, since it states: "He gives greater grace" and "gives grace to the humble".  If we will but humble outselves to the Lord and say: "God, I don't know how, but you through me can teach me how", the promise is that His greater grace is there.  All we need to do is believe God, not doubt, and trust that what may not make sense emotionally is the only thing that makes sense in light of eternity.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:13)

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