Luke 17:1-4 "He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
The pain of tripping over lego blocks at night
Over the years my children have enjoyed playing with little Lego blocks. I can even recall as a child getting a big pail full of Lego blocks at my grandmother's home and building houses, forts and all sorts of structures. Lego's can be a wonderful experience, that is, until you step on them at night. I'm sure you know of what I speak. You're walking through your house in the middle of the night to get a sip of water when, OUCH! Yep. Someone left their Lego's out in the middle of the living room. There have been occasions where I have almost fallen or tripped because of the pain of those sharp little edges.
Jesus uses an interesting term here in Luke 17 to describe what it means to "take up offense" - namely, "stumbling blocks". We looked yesterday at what it means to take up offense and how it both harms and hampers the Christian. In Luke 17, this same idea is communicated by Jesus as a warning to His disciples. The word translated "stumbling block" comes from a Greek word from whence we derive our English word "scandal". Scandals in our day and age can cause onlookers to either wag their heads or, in some cases, tempt others to think of doing the same thing. Stumbling blocks or offense never benefits.
How does one get free from offense? Perhaps from the last post, some were under the impression that one cannot escape this spiritual and emotional malady called "offense". As we explore God's Word, there is only one effective way to not only escape offense, but to avoid it all together - forgiveness. Jesus lays out in three parts the remedy of forgiveness as He warns about how to avoid and escape offense. Notice...
1. Heed the call to let go of the offense. Luke 17:1-2
Jesus starts out in Luke 17:1-2 with these words - "He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble." So, its not a matter of "if offenses will come". Instead, it is more a matter of "when they will come". You and I cannot control what people will say or what events will come into our lives. We also are not living in a fair world, since our world is a fallen one. Older Bible teachers often refer to what are called "the noetic effects of sin", meaning the collateral damage caused by our sin, including broken relationships, mis-understandings, damaged emotions and other various spiritual, psychological and physical maladies that affect the human race.
So to get free or remain free from offense, we've got to learn to "let go". This is at the heart of the meaning of forgiveness. But now notice what else Jesus' says...
2. Heed the call to loosen from blame. Luke 17:3-4
Jesus continues on His warning in Luke 17:3-4 3“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4“And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” So in this world of ours, and even in the church, the likelihood of someone saying something wrong, or not saying something that should had been said, can yield in us a response of anger or bitterness if we're not careful. If we have taken strides to guard are hearts through reflecting on God's Word and God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ, the chances of taking up offenses will be greatly diminished.
Now Jesus is not dismissing from responsibility the one who says careless words or does thoughtless deeds. Often when an offense is taken up, a legitimate hurt has been committed, and not just merely a misunderstanding. Certainly those who are careless or reckless in their treatment of us should be held accountable for their actions. The key of course is by whom should they be held accountable - us or God?
Such considerations will aid greatly in getting free from offense. We've got to let go, and loosen from blame. But now let's notice one last thing Jesus states concerning how to get free from or in avoiding offense...
3. Heed the call to love in greater faith. Luke 17:5-6
We read the following interesting response of the disciples to Jesus in Luke 17:5-6 "The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you." In as much as the Lord instructs on matters of prayer, I find it intriguing that this teaching and the disciples' remarks follows on the heals of Jesus' teaching on offense. Our pattern for forgiveness is the cross (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) To forgive those who have hurt us requires, well, great faith. Whenever God is calling us to such a high calling as "letting go, loosening from blame and loving that other person", we need a greater capacity for His love to flow through us. Hence, the request for greater faith is the request for a greater ability to trust God to see them through whenever they heed these challenging words of Jesus.
Unless we forgive as the Lord forgave us, we will fall for offense every time or we will find ourselves ever "stuck in the rut" of offense, rejection and stumbling around. As Jesus points out in Luke 17:4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”