Many Will Be Offended

Visibly angry, the man with the long dark beard backed away from me as if to avoid catching a dreaded disease.  “Get away from me!  You are an offence to me!” he sputtered hatefully, eyes flashing with rage, face heavy with indignation.  Beside him his approving wife glared at me in agreement, while their two little children looked on, open mouthed with astonishment.    A minute later the deeply offended husband and wife were bustling their two little ones out through the store’s automatic front doors like someone had just announced an outbreak of the black plague. 

The setting was a large, well known Christian book store in Brisbane, Australia. I hadn’t entered the book store that Saturday morning looking to offend anyone, honestly. With my husband absorbed in a nearby hobby shop, I had wandered in just to kill some time.  As usual, the store was bustling with shoppers browsing through hundreds of shelves of books, Bibles and CDs, while busy staff members dashed here and there ensuring everything was running smoothly.

Above the buzz the rising voices of two children in heated argument caught my attention.  Left to amuse themselves in the children’s play area a girl no more than five years old was desperately trying to hold on to a toy her younger brother was attempting to wrench from her hands. As the noisy disagreement escalated the children’s father appeared from somewhere, sharply rebuking his daughter for allowing the situation to occur.  With hard slaps of his hand, he began to physically correct her until her loud sobs echoed all over the shop.  Not content, he then commenced a second round of heavy slapping because she was wailing.  The child’s distressed screams were deafening. 

I looked around, alarmed, expecting someone, probably a staff member, to say or do something to stop this heavy handed assault on a child.   All around me customers chose to be oblivious, burying their heads even deeper into books and Bibles.  Staff, eyes to the ground, suddenly found something urgent to do at the far end of the store and scurried away.  After all, this was a Christian bookstore, and Christian love means we tolerate all things lest we offend someone, doesn’t it?

As for me, as the scene continued to unfold a few feet in front of me I found myself unable to move.  A burning sensation of heat was rising from somewhere deep inside me.  Unexpectedly and with calm authority a single word bounced off my tongue: “STOP!” 

Wailing daughter still in hand the man stopped his slapping, and lifted his head to see who had dared to interfere with his fatherly duties of correction.  “What did you say?” he asked, staring at me in disbelief.  “You can stop now.  You’ve made your point.  There’s no need to punish her further” I said, calmly but firmly.   He was clearly unused to being rebuked, not least by a small, insignificant woman.  It was at this point he swiftly grabbed his wife and children, sputtered out his hate filled words, and warned me not to come any closer (though I hadn’t moved).   As he herded his family hastily through the exit the last thing I saw was the little girl gazing back at me with wide eyed puzzlement on her face.

Holy Spirit gave me a crash course in an important aspect of discipleship that day.  He taught me something many years of church attendance had failed to cover:  if we are genuine about walking with Christ we’re going to have to come to terms with being an offence to all that is anti-Christ.

In the short time that Jesus ministered on the earth He managed to offend a great many people.  And it didn’t trouble Him one little bit.  For instance: several disciples were offended when He said they should eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-61); the good people of home town Nazareth were offended when He refused to behave like a carpenter’s son (Mat. 13:54-57); a whole lot of temple goers were offended when He ran amok with a whip (John 2:15).   And to Israel’s religious leaders Jesus was a constant irritating source of unbridled offence (Matt. 15:12).  According to the gospels, it seems a good percentage of the population was offended at Jesus most of the time.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Jesus didn’t offend people to draw attention to Himself, or to make out He was holier than anyone else.  That kind of self-centered behavior would have been a work of the flesh, but Jesus walked in the Spirit.  And it was because He walked, lived, spoke and acted only in the Spirit of God that He was offensive to anyone who lived, spoke or acted in opposition to the Spirit of God.  We may better know this opposing spirit that works in the flesh of man as antichrist (1 Jn. 2:22).

Now the world hasn’t changed since Jesus walked here as a man, there’s just more of it.  And God hasn’t changed, because He doesn’t (Mal. 3:6).   So what happened to the church’s power to be the same kind of holy offence in the world as Christ was?  The answer has to be that the church has changed.  In countries where the church is an offence to the spirit of the world, the church is persecuted but powerful in witness and faith.  But in countries where the church has compromised with the spirit of the world, the church is powerless, weak, devoid of faith and lukewarm.  And it has to be said that in way too many instances, the church is more an offence to God than the world.  

So, at the risk of offending some, let me throw some questions out there for serious consideration:

*When did the church become more concerned about offending the world than offending God?

*How has the uncompromising love modelled by Jesus Christ been replaced by a sickly sweet counterfeit love that tolerates rather than confronts sin, injustice, corruption and oppression?

*Where did the church get the idea that antichrist in the world could be opposed through politics better than through a crucified people living, and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit?

*And if Jesus was called “a rock of offence and a stone of stumbling” are we, His disciples, also prepared to wear that label and bear the consequences……daily?  (Rom. 9:33)

We have become too used to being friends with this world.  We have craved popularity and taken comfort in approval. We are more concerned with how many ‘likes’ register on our social networks than how well we are representing Christ. 

But antichrist doesn’t thrive only in the world.  Antichrist is also alive and well in the church today. Those that were most offended at Jesus were those whose religious traditions, complacency and lifestyles were deeply confronted by His simple Presence among them.  As it was then, so it is today.  The spirit of antichrist manifests within the church as the religious spirit and persecutes all that is genuinely of Christ.  We cannot truly follow Christ and expect it to be any other way. 

Jesus spoke to His disciples of a day when ‘they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” (Matt.24:9,10 NKJV).   Did you ever read those words and think He was speaking only about those outside the church?  Look again.  The betrayal and hatred Jesus warned about here is in the context of those who say they are His followers.  We can only be betrayed by those we have associated with as friends (Matt. 26:21).

The antichrist spirit of religion is not always going to confront us with open hostility.  Sometimes it will present itself with a kiss, a warm smile and smooth, reasonable words.  Only by intimately knowing the real Christ can we discern the false christ.   

It’s time to decide whether we are ready to walk as Christ walked.  And if we are, many around us will be offended. We cannot be offended at those who are offended, but nor can we afford to compromise.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

 



Categories: Life in Christ, The Bride of Christ, Words of Grace and Truth

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16 replies

  1. thank you for standing up for this child, and thank you for following the lead of The Holy Spirit, and thank you for posting this

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    • Hi Jim, I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I wish I deserved all those ‘thankyous’ but I don’t. As I explained to someone else, it was Christ in me who stood up for the child and confronted what was happening. And it was Christ in me that attracted the man’s hateful reaction, not me. If I remember correctly, I, like everyone else, was looking for a way to quietly disappear from the scene. I wanted to convey in the post something about the nature of Christ that I learned that day, and have continued to learn. If the post challenges others to examine the nature of their ‘following’ then sharing the story has been well worth it.
      Bless you heaps,
      CM

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  2. This excellent article puts me in mind of another I read yesterday. If I may offer the link: http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/610-spiritled-woman/spiritled-woman/6726-fulfilling-the-command-learning-to-love-him

    Excerpt: “Among our friends in ministry is one who literally died, appeared before Jesus in heaven and was sent back to Earth to complete his service to our Lord. Now he touches untold thousands for Christ.

    In relating his death experience, he says that he found himself in heaven in a line of people who were standing on a moving path. One by one, each person in the line appeared before Jesus. All those on the path were dressed in white and were exceedingly happy.

    On a parallel path moving toward the Lord were people who were exceedingly unhappy. These were clothed in that to which they had devoted their lives. Each was given the opportunity to look at Christ and He at them before the path turned downward.

    When our friend appeared before Jesus, he was asked the one question that everyone in the line had been asked: “Did you learn to love?”

    The Lord had not asked, “Did you ‘do’?” or even “Did you ‘go’?”—but “Did you love?” In other words, our friend was asked if, while he was on Earth, he had fulfilled the two greatest commandments: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength'” and “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Mark 12:30-31).

    Unable to Love
    Until I heard the story of my friend’s experience, I did not realize that I was to seek to fulfill these commandments above all else—and the first one above all. However, I knew I was not able to correctly answer the “test” question put to all believers when they appeared before Christ.

    Not only was I aware of my failure in this area, but I knew that I was incapable of loving God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength. I confessed to my husband that I was unable to obey this most important commandment.

    “Of course you can’t,” he answered calmly. “God must fulfill this through you.”

    I sighed inwardly because I didn’t understand his answer. I saw that I couldn’t keep the first commandment, but I didn’t know how God would accomplish it through me either.

    One day I stumbled upon the answer. Christianity is a way of life of supernaturally receiving that which we do not have and will never have in ourselves. Our Lord and Savior is to “be” and “do” everything within and through His disciples (see John 15:5; Rom. 15:18-19).

    Only the Father can love the Son completely. Only the Son can return that love fully to the Father. Neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit has His own love. They love the Father and each other with the one, divine love issuing from the Father.

    Only God can love God. His love has no limits. It was before all time and will be forever.

    We ask that this eternal love of the Father for His Son be brought forth in us. We cannot originate it. But we experience it as if we did. Such is the mystery of God.”

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    • Bren, Thanks for commenting and sharing the linked article. I agree, it is absolutely true that we are unable to love God as He is worthy to be loved. It is Christ in us that enables us to love the Father, and love one another as He commanded us to do.

      I have some trouble with this statement though: “Neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit has His own love.” This implies that the Son and the Holy Spirit are both subordinate to the Father, rather than equally God with the Father.. Personally, I believe there is no subordination in the Trinity but that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally the One God expressed in three divine Personalities. As such, the Son and the Holy Spirit ARE both Love, along with the Father.

      But that’s another discussion for another day and I do not want to divert too far away from the discussion at hand.

      Thanks so much for dropping by and contributing.
      CM

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      • Interesting that you would say that, ” “Neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit has His own love.” This implies that the Son and the Holy Spirit are both subordinate to the Father, rather than equally God with the Father.” as when I read it, what I heard in my Spirit, was ALL love originates from the Father… I did not see it as their being subordinate… but I can clearly see how it could be taken that way.

        I like your Spirit Sis …. HE shines brightly and humbling and honestly through you….

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      • Hi again Bren,
        My point was that God is love, and God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The scriptures don’t say Father is love. They say God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). So to state that ‘neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit has His own love” does not really make any scriptural sense. Add to this the fact that the New Testament specifically refers to the love of the Spirit (Rom. 15:30) and love is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22) is evidence that the Spirit Himself loves (as God, not having to draw love from the Father). Jesus also spoke specifically in terms of His own love when He said: : “he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21) and: “as the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” Jn 15:9

        The apostle John referred to himself as the apostle ‘whom Jesus loved”. Ephesians 5:22 states “Christ has loved us” and Romans 8:35 asks “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Ephesians 3:19 refers to ‘the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” And Ephesians 5:22 admonishes husbands to love their wives as “Christ loved the church”. In Revelation 3:19 the risen Jesus Christ says “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten”.

        So there is plenty of scriptural evidence that the Spirit and the Son share the same love nature as the Father, without having to draw love from the Father because they don’t have their own. However, I don’t know of any scriptural evidence that would back up the statement “neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit has His own love.” In actual fact the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ALL of them love and none of them has anything of their own because they exist in perfect communion as One.

        So while I agree wholeheartedly with the article’s premise that we can only love God and each other through Christ’s love in us, I would strongly question the scriptural validity of the statement “Neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit has His own love”.

        Hope this makes my position clear and thanks again for sharing and helping us all to examine what we do believe!
        CM

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      • *smile I concur “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ALL of them love and none of them has anything of their own because they exist in perfect communion as One”

        Thank you. It was my hope the link would confirm the heart of your original post … appreciate your pointing out that line, adding your insights to it by way of scriptural clarity, lest some come away with a false impression of the Spirit of God. Truly you have sharper eyes and ears in the Spirit… as I had not seen the discrepancy or I would not have posted the link. May I ask for you to pray for me…. as a fellow writer, that I be more alert and only share His truth.

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      • Bren, What a beautiful heart of humility you have; you must know Jesus well. We all need each other, that’s how its meant to be, isn’t it, each bringing their small portion to the greater good, together forming the image of Christ? I will visit your blog when I get a few spare minutes and am sure I will be blessed. Thankyou again for your input.
        Bless you,
        CM

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      • If you are moved by the Holy Spirit you may want to consider these two links at the site I publish some of the writings I am given. These two were given to me in particular for the Bride of Christ: http://www.enterrest.com/Receiving_A_Listening_Heart.htm
        http://www.enterrest.com/Gods_Vision_For_His_Church.htm

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  3. This is an excellent word. I always look at the beginning of John 16 where Jesus says, they will think they are doing God a favor when they kill you. Thanks for sharing the story too.

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  4. Reblogged this on spiritualabusesanctuary and commented:
    Beautiful, Cheryl. There is nothing I could possibly add to this thought ;provoking and touching post. Jesus bless you for standing for the love of the Truth.

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  5. Wow. Thank you for loving that child. Changing into the likeness of Christ, even quietly and privately, often brings a reaction of, “Change back! You are making us look bad. You are over-zealous. You are judgmental. You think you are spiritually superior. If you really loved us you would submit and conform…” The very act of pursuing more is offensive to some. It’s lonely sometimes, this seeking the Lord first.

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    • Hi Charis, thanks for commenting. As I just replied to a friend who wrote to me privately about the post:

      “The incident actually happened several years ago so the child would be much older now. And yes, I have no idea if anything changed in that household. At the time I could only pray for those children and that family. But the thing that impacted me even more than the unjust treatment of the child was the outright disgust for me evident in this “Christian” father. He was truly completely offended and acted as though I was (extremely) evil and he was (extremely) righteous. As I said, I had a crash course that day and have never forgotten what I learned: the religious spirit is vicious, hateful and dangerous when we manifest Christ. We should not fear it, but we should definitely be aware of it’s murderous intent.”

      You wrote: “The very act of pursuing (Christ) more is offensive to some.” How true.
      CM

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    • Charis, just feel I need to add that it wasn’t me that loved that child that day. It was Christ in me Who loved the child, and it was Christ in me that the father was offended by. The religious, antichrist spirit has roots in all of us, and has done since our fall from grace in the Garden. I am as potentially capable of being deceived by it in my own flesh as anyone else. That’s why HE must increase and I must decrease 🙂 Prior to this incident I, like most Christians, thought being Christian was about being ‘nice’ and not offending anyone. I was taken completely by surprise by what happened and it took me quite a while to figure out what Holy Spirit was teaching me. I hope that’s what comes through in the post.
      CM

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