Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Unoffendable?



Near the tail end of last year, a friend of mine moved away.  One of the last things she shared in Bible study was the idea of being unoffendable.

That's been a sticking point for me.  On the one hand, it is a very noble objective.  On the other hand, what can it possibly mean?

Is it feasible to think that a person could go through life without ever taking offense at anything, without ever being hurt, or even bothered?

Was Jesus really unoffendable?  That's a rhetorical question.  I'm not going to try to answer it.  I'm going to ask another question:

Is God unoffendable?

I think the answer must be no.  Sin is a grave offense to God, a serious offense.  In fact, it is a fatal offense.  Sin against God leads to death, and we would have no hope, except for the saving grace of Christ, through His blood shed on our behalf.

God loves mercy and justice (Micah 6:8).  The opposites of mercy and justice are cruelty and unfairness.  I think it is safe to say that cruelty and unfairness offend God.

Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus reiterates again and again that He is one with the Father.  Therefore, if God is offendable, so is Jesus.

John 11:35 keeps coming back to my mind.  Jesus wept.  Jesus wept.  He wept outside the tomb of Lazarus because the catastrophic ripple effects of sin had brought the devastating pain of death into the lives of His own dear friends.  Jesus is offended by sin, by pain, by death, by the destruction wreaked by the powers of evil that invaded His glorious creation.

Jesus was so offended by the powers of evil, that He took them on and triumphed over them through a surprising strategy--the willing surrender of His own perfect flesh and blood to gain forgiveness for the sins of all humanity.

We will be hurt.  Sin still lurks all around us, and people fall into it, both well-meaning people and people of evil intent.  All people fall into sin, and hurt each other.

Incidentally, this is one of the greatest miracles we have to look forward to in heaven: no more sin!  There will be no more offenses.  I will not offend you, and you will not offend me.  Ever.  No more sorrow, no more tears.  Praise the Lord!

In the meantime, we have to grapple with sin, even though Jesus conquered it.  He has left us here to complete His work of salvation, bringing news of hope and forgiveness to those who do not yet understand.  Since they don't know hope, forgiveness, or Jesus, they are captive to sin.  Even the redeemed, who theoretically know how to have freedom from sin, can rarely figure out how to adequately apply their benefits.  Offenses abound.

In what sense, then, can we be unoffendable?

1.  We can be safe people.  By this I mean that others should feel safe when they are with us.  We should be kind, training ourselves not to register shock--or horror--when someone confesses his struggles in our presence.  We can strive to minister kindness to those who are shackled in unhealthy lifestyles.  When sinners sin (as they will, as we all will), we must never respond with hatred and anger, but with compassion, praying for our offenders to find the truth, encouraging them to find hope, speaking words of comfort, life and love.  We should be safe, kind and encouraging.  We should never enable sin, but we should always demonstrate compassion for sinners.

2.  We can be gracious, forgiving people.  Giving grace always comes at a cost to the giver.  In an earlier post, I wrote, "To walk humbly is to walk in grace, and grace is a synonym for forgiveness."  So, we can be forgiving, like God is to us, through Christ.  In this sense, it isn't about being perfectly unoffendable.  Rather, it's about not holding onto an offense.  It's learning to say, "I choose not to cling to this offense, but to release it to the Lord and trust Him to make all things right."  It's reminding ourselves how much God has forgiven us, humbly receiving His forgiveness with thankful hearts, and graciously passing forgiveness along to the next offender.  We can be links in a chain of grace extended.

3.  We can lose ourselves in Christ.  This is very hard, but if we practice (and eventually learn) how to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not on ourselves or the difficulties surrounding us, we will become much less selfish.  When we escape our own selfishness, we will be much less prone to taking offense.  Gross injustices may still offend us, but as we focus on Christ--His complete provision, His sovereign power, His unfailing love, His perfect plan--we can rest in the confidence that He is in control, and His will will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Surrendering confidently to Christ, and finding all our needs met in Him--this is the best way to live an unoffendable life.

The fact is, God was offended by sin, but Jesus (who was also offended by sin), offered Himself up to conquer that which was offensive, so all creation could find freedom, in Him, from sin.  God's wrath against sin and death was poured out on Christ, and thus, the power of evil crumbled.  It still lurks, in this age of forbearing grace, but it will never again prevail in any real power, and it will be utterly abolished in the age to come.

I am free to love and worship God.  I am free to receive and give grace, forgiving as I have been forgiven.  I am free to be kind, compassionate and safe in my interactions with others, although I will certainly sometimes fall short--but when I do, I am also free to repent, receive forgiveness for myself, and continue growing in Christlikeness.

I am free to choose not to be offended.

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