” . . . It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they come! Take heed to yourselves, if your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him .” NKJV – Luke 17 : 1, 3
“ . . . Looking carefully, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; . . .” – Hebrews 12 : 15
In recent times, there have been too many sudden debates on matters of doctrine and ordinances, upon which the Christian faith is founded. In a lot of ways, the real challenge has been the definition of things. It seems, there is a wave of perspectives and everything we know to be righteous and true are redefined in the light of present-day realities. For those looking for social media activity, it has been their pleasure to air their views on these issues without restraint.
For me, it got to its heights when a veteran of faith – Pastor E.A.Adeboye had to publicly respond to some of these perspectives; anyone who knows him well knows that he hardly responds to popular buzz. However, as always, I love to investigate a matter from its root, so that true analysis, of what the issue really is, can be made. I found out that beneath all the display of oratory skills and biblical exegesis is offense. Unfortunately, so many of them are legitimate offense (if there is anything like that).
Jesus had mentioned that nothing would be impossible to those who believe, but that does not seem to include the manifestation of offense. It has to come and sadly, it is really not that potent when people, with whom we have no relationship, offend us. Those, with whom we have dined and wined; with whom we have shared brotherhood, sisterhood or both as the case may be, with whom we have taken counsel; and with whom we have have been through things together, are the ones capable of stirring up an offense. As far as the LORD is concerned, a curse is already on those by whom these offenses come but that has not exonerated the offended from the consequences of allowing the offense to defile him or her. Each one must guard their hearts jealously.
I will restrict myself to the body of Christ in this case, even though outsiders are not exonerated too. God is God for all! When within the church environment there are unrighteousness and injustice; in the very house of the LORD, the very place where righteousness and justice are supposed to be the foundation, an offense is inevitable. When membership access to leadership becomes a privilege of a few, and the food that is made available in the house of the LORD by tithes and offering becomes the exclusive preserve of a select group of people, while committed members are excluded from the blessings at display in their Father’s house, an offense would come.
When all can see pastors and their families flourish and live lavish lifestyles, not traceable to any recognizable labour other than preaching and leading the church, other members, who do as much work on Sundays and during the week ushering, singing, washing the toilets, cleaning the sanctuary, etc., would start to wonder if the grace of God that abounds toward the pastor is unavailable to them also. When pastors humanity comes to the fore, it demystifies his office and questions begin to come to the fore. Did the Scriptures not clarify to us all that the greatest of all is the servant of all? Did Jesus and the Apostles not give us an example of sacrifice, even when they have the right to eat of the fruits of the vineyard they are in charge of? Something terribly has gone wrong with the responsibility of church leadership to their people and offense has become commonplace.
Most times, this has very little to do with financial matters, it is oftentimes emotional, and intellectual. When the leadership takes side with the wife, when there is a disagreement between a couple or when they drum down the submission mantra on an abused wife, in the name of the LORD, the aggrieved one becomes offended. Eventually, their offense would, like a seed, fall to a fitting ground, take root and start to grow. Unfortunately, this is going almost every day, in many hearts, but we would not know of them until their fruits are out in abundance and it sometimes becomes impossible to cut down.
Same goes for a fervent brother or sister, whose zeal for the LORD is mistaken for an agenda by church leadership. When opportunities for service comes, it seems to be handed to those, whose parents or associations confer some kind of benefit on leadership, not those who are ready and prepared by the LORD for it. I attended a church sometimes ago, it was their youth Sunday. When it was time for one of them to preach, the person on parade was obviously not the most anointed, prepared or equipped for the task. It is either he is the ‘Yes Sir/Madam’ guy, who has no personal opinion of his own on any matter, or the church is outrightly bereft of young men and ladies prepared for the ministry of the word (I want to believe there are always ready people, they may not be discovered or encouraged or allowed yet). It will not take long before such brother or sister would find himself or herself an alternative avenue to express what is going on inside of him or her. Your best guess is right, especially if he or she is already defiled by the injustice within his local church.
I can go on an on . . . but the stories are all at play in our local churches everywhere.
It is alarming that Christ’s response to the offenders is a ‘Woe’, not a ‘Curse’ (‘Egbe’, not ‘Egun’ in Yoruba). It suggests a stronger judgment than a curse. ‘Woe’ is like an eternal judgment to a matter that may not be evident in the present, or even in the person’s lifetime, while a curse is a judgment, whose impact becomes evident in life and it can be reversed if the cursed person repents and turns a new leaf. If you are a leader in the body of Christ, you need to be very careful how you use your liberties. Unto whom much is given, much is required.
That the offense did not come as a result of what the offended person did does not exoneration him or her from God’s judgment also. Jesus mentioned how important it is to not be offended, even in Him!
” And blessed is he(she) who is not offended because of Me .” NKJV – Matthew 11 : 6
If it was possible for anyone to be offended by Jesus Christ, in whom no sin (wrongdoing) is found; how much more those that are redeemed by His sacrifice; still operating in the flesh. Offenses must come! It is inevitable! How you respond to them is what matters. If you let it sink into you, you will become defiled. An offense is like a seed; it would grow into a mighty tree of rebellion if you let it.
Are you an offended brother, legitimately abused and unjustly treated? Are you struggling with the pain inflicted on you by those called by the name of the LORD; perhaps, by those who are evident representatives of God to His people, be careful of offense! Going out there, to seek justice for yourself or to right all wrongs done to you would make you become defiled. You do not want to spread defilement to people around you. Instead of being offended, confront those who treat you wrongly, not to castigate them, but to bring the matter to their notice, just in case they are not aware of the consequences of their actions. If they repent, forgive and move on! If they do not and they put forward a defense instead of mending their ways, forgive still. It is for your own sake. Put the matter before the LORD, who is the judge of all, like Jesus did, and He will judge the matter righteously.
May I sound a note of caution; you would do well to heed this. When next someone is speaking into your world, through videos, voice, and writings on traditional or social media, subject whatever they are saying to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit and the Word. Be sure those words are not coming from offended vessels, seeking expression on alternative platforms and looking to score a point by appealing to sentiments. Be sure it is a word from the LORD before you take them in. Each word is like a seed (good or bad), it would either edify or defile you also.
Please look out for my next post on Revelations and Exposition, it should help you in screening words spoken in the name of the LORD.
Peace to the righteous.