Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Ephesians 4:25-27 "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity."
In our last post we defined and gave an example of what it means to take up offense. Both Jesus and the Apostles warn against responding in bitterness and unforgiveness. The New Testament uses terms like "stumbling-blocks" and "offense" to convey the dangers posed by persistent states of bitterness. Paul uses the imagery of "foothold" to warn us of the danger of harboring resentment.
I'm sure most readers have seen "rock walls" or "climbing walls". If you have never seen or tried to climb a "rock wall", such obstacles contain minute rocks and shelf-like protrusions called "foot-holds". Though not amounting to much in terms of size, such devices provide what is needed for people to climb up the sheerness of such walls. Whenever one takes up offense, they are providing a "foothold" for the enemy to do his dirty work in their lives.
In today's post we want to dig deeper into this concept. We will first offer another illustration of what it means to take up offense, followed by reasons why you and I ought to guard against offense.
An Illustration Of The Danger Of Taking Up Offense
One day a man decided to take his friend from overseas to see a football game. The friend had never been to a game, nor was he familiar at all with football. As they were up in the stands, watching the game, the crowd around them was cheering, and the man himself was whooping and hollering, for the home team was winning. However his friend sat motionless with a scowl on his face.
After the game was over, the excited man asked his friend: "So what did you think of your first football game"? His friend sharply responded: I have never been so offended in all my life! Those fellows in the stripped shirts kept ever so often getting together in the middle of the field, stopping the players from playing. And you know what, I think they were talking about me!"
Now this illustration conveys the truth of what Jesus is teaching. The friend in our little story perceived a line had been crossed. He came to the game, not knowing what to expect. As he watched, he began to draw conclusions about what he thought he saw. All we know is that the man chose to respond in anger and bitterness, resulting in his inability to appreciate the effort of the other man in treating him to his first football game.
Jesus' Warning To Guard Against Offense
Jesus' warnings about avoiding the tragic response of offense are repeated in the Gospels. When people respond in bitterness rather than in an attitude of forgiveness, such responses are not rare. If anything, Jesus warns that offenses are quite common, even inevitable, in this world. After all, Jesus plainly states in Luke 17:1-2 Jesus says: "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." If you have not ever had the opportunity to be hurt, or be at the receiving end of thoughtless words and deeds - just wait!
Those Most Vulnerable To Offense
So its not a matter of "if offenses will come", rather 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. Instead, we live in a fallen one. The only thing we can control is our response. Will you be bitter, or better? Will you retain a grudge, or forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13)?
It may surprise some readers to know that the most vulnerable people to offense are those persons who are walking closest to God. Pastors, Sunday School Teachers, Prayer Warriors, Christian Moms and Dads - anyone who is used greatly by God in other people's lives are the number-one targets of offense. Why? The kingdom of darkness knows that if the major movers and shakers in God's kingdom can be crippled by misunderstanding, hurt-feelings and unforgiveness - then the strategy of Satan will advance. Unless the cross is in our center-line of vision, the vulnerability to taking up offenses will be pretty high.
Guard Against Offense
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?
Jesus is warning us who have been at the receiving end to be careful not to "hold bitterness" or "take up offense". Again in Luke 17:3 we read - 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.”
Closing Thoughts And Applications
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.