Do you watch politics? Have you seen any reality television shows lately? Well, for your sake, I hope not, but they are hard to avoid. If you have, is it just me or does it seem like everyone is upset. Everyone is angry. People are angry at the government, the country, one another. Yelling, screaming, hair-pulling, and throwing punches. Name-calling, hatemongering, insults. Sadly, for the whole of our society, this has become the norm, not the exception. What does it all mean? Pastor Jaime Villalobos preached a message yesterday about this very thing and brought up a powerful passage of Scripture.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (NIV)
At that time? Well, we are living in that time. This Scripture says that many will turn away from the faith. This is the NIV translation, but it is a strange translation. The King James Bibles translates it like this: “And then shall many be offended.” A literal translation from the original language says it still another way, “and then many be stumbled.” All of these are pointing to the same thing. When we get offended with someone, we will turn away from the faith. Oh….now just you wait a minute you preacher….are you telling me when I get offended, I have walked away from the faith?? Uh, no. That is not what I am saying. It is what the Bible is saying. It is what the Lord is saying.
Faith is dead without deeds (James 2:14). What deeds prove that we have sincere faith? First and foremost, we must love like Jesus. Jesus has taught us that He is the Way but that He is also love. When we stop loving, which is the unavoidable effect of getting offended, we have left the Way of Christ. We have stumbled on the path and fallen off to the side. We have got offended. We have turned away from the faith that we have in Christ as the Way…as God. We cannot claim that Jesus is our God and then refuse to obey His commands. And He has commanded us to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22) and whatever or whomever we obey first has become our god. When we actively stop obeying the Lord, we have turned away from the faith. Offense is no little thing. It is huge.
Yesterday afternoon, Pastor Jaime and I were talking, and he brought up that the word ‘offense’ comes from the original word ‘skandalon.’ This word means ‘trap-stick.’ The trap-stick is the stick that an animal steps on when it goes for the bait that releases the cage of a trap to fall and enclose the animal. When someone offends us, the idea of responding with unforgiveness is so enticing. It is bait. It is something that we want; that we desire. There is something in us that does not want to allow people to get away with something that is not right. We want to right the wrong. We want to make sure they feel the pain, so they never do it again. This is a trap-stick and if we go for it, the cage will come down and the enemy’s bait lured us in. Offense is the opposite of forgiveness. It is the opposite of love. It is the opposite of selfless. It is a prideful moment where we think to ourselves, ‘You will not treat me this way.” We defend ourselves, but we do it without love. We want to defend what we believe is right, but we do it in a way that is wrong. We must let the Lord be our defender. He is also our commander and He command us to love and forgive.
How long have you been caged up? Stepping on that trap-stick is so easy and it seems so right, but in the end, we are trapped. Don’t start thinking that you can get out of the trap on your own. Like a trapped jack rabbit, you don’t have the strength or the deposable thumbs to be able to manipulate the trap. Face it, you are trapped. But there is One with strength and power to release you. The Lord sets us free through the conviction of sin. If you are reading this and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of unforgiveness in your heart, you are one step closer to being set free. This is the Holy Spirit working on your heart. Now confess your sins to the Lord. Confess to Him that you have gotten offended. Confess to Him that you have held a grudge. Confess to Him that you have stopped loving someone because of how badly they hurt you. Confess this to Him and He will lift the gate. Next, to better and stay in His grace. His promise is to cleanse us from unrighteousness when we confess our sins to Him. Aren’t you tired of living trapped?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (NIV)
Lord, I haven’t wanted to admit it, but I am easily offended. I let things bother me and get me upset. I know this hurts my relationships with others and with You. I confess this offense to you as sin and I repent from it. I will exert all of my energy to resist the temptation of getting offended. Help me Lord. May your Holy Spirit remind me of the promises that comes to those who are gentle and forgiving. Make me more like You. -Amen.