Saturday, November 18, 2006

Offended in Jesus

“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke 7:23)

If the disciples, and obviously, John the Baptist (vv.19-23), were offended in one way or another by our Lord, who are we to say that we are immune from such unreasonableness? You and I are abundantly capable of offending one another, as the Scripture teaches, and’ were it not for the Blood of Christ, we would present a constant affront to God. But the fact that the One who was perfect in all things could ever be offensive to His imperfect creation, is further proof of our own perverseness. The disciples (and others) were not always offended, of course, but enough to give us some examples of where you and I are in danger of getting our own feelings hurt.

It is easy to become offended when we are treated unjustly by others. “I’m not offended by God,” you may argue, “I’m offended by the people.” Yet, can you truthfully say, the fact that God could have prevented their actions never gnaws beneath the surface? After asserting that He was being “hated without a cause” in John 15:25, and predicting the same for them, in chapter sixteen, Jesus told His disciples, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (16:1). There is something about unfair treatment that can make even the “godliest” among us level our resentment past the perpetrator to the “Permission-giver.” But, as Jesus pointed out, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matt.10:24). Perhaps if we could see unfair treatment and persecution as a mark of identification with Christ, rather than a sign of alienation by God, we would be less inclined to be offended.

Some people, like the Pharisees in Mark six, are offended when someone, whom they consider to have lesser credentials than they is found to be superior in wisdom and/or conduct. In the case of Jesus, they saw someone whose education was not as exclusive as their own, yet whose wisdom was astonishing (Mark 6:2). And, for all their religious paraphernalia, they were unable to match the “mighty works…wrought by his hand.” For this reason, Mark says, “they were offended at him” (v.3). I wonder if we are ever offended when God chooses to astonish people by using unlikely, even unqualified, individuals. The truth is, when all is said and done, we are all clay; and with God availability trumps ability every time.

And speaking of the Pharisees, there was another occasion when something Jesus said rubbed them the wrong way. In Matthew fifteen, He accused them of having the kind of religion that looked good on the outside, but only because they had set their own standards. Blind tradition had taken the place of Biblical text; and as our older son, Andrew, says, “Anytime you are bound to tradition, you’ve uncut the Bible.” Midway in His discourse, the disciples, fearful of their own good standing, no doubt, tried to caution Him by saying, “In case you haven’t noticed, you’ve offended the Pharisees” (v.12). He knew, all right, but the problem was not His; it was theirs.

The last example I want to address is the one found in John six, where Jesus blew the disciples away in the discourse that began, “I am the bread of life” (v.48). All the talk about eating His flesh and drinking His blood was more than they could wrap their minds around. As Jesus pointed out, it was because they could not see past the physical to the spiritual (v.63). Some people try to spiritualize Biblical commands that would put a cramp in their theology or their lifestyle; but there are others who are so busy interpreting everything literally that they can never pick up on eternal principles. No doubt, this is where the ability to “rightly [divide] the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15)) is best exemplified. The point is, these men were so frustrated that they could not figure out God, they became offended. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?” (v.61) I’ve seen sour Christians, who were always laboring under the false belief that they had been given the commission to settle the argument, once and for all, on predestination and free will, or some other doctrine that has been argued since…since there were two Christians to argue!

We should probably remind ourselves that when we are offended with God, we display it by blaming someone else. Rarely do we hear anyone say, “I was offended by God today.” But when we take offense at unfair treatment or overlooked recognition, or if we bristle when our hypocrisy is pointed out, or our Bible interpretation questioned, we should assume we are really blaming God. At least that is how it would seem to me. And, if that be the case, we are not the ones Jesus was speaking of when He said, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

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