Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Being Offended


Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus sometimes offended those who needed a blessing? Offenses come, and sometimes they even come from God.

Consider the Canaanite woman whose daughter was severely demon possessed:

And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. (Mat 15:22-28 NASB)

Offense #1: The first thing Jesus did was ignore her.
But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us."
Offense #2: The second thing He did was explain how she was unqualified because of her nationality:
But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Offense #3: The third thing He did was personally insult her by calling her a dog.
"It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
Three times he tried to push her away and three times she came back. Why?

First, she came back because of faith: she knew something about Jesus. Hebrews 11 teaches us that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Which is exactly what we see here: an acknowledgement of who Jesus was (specifically as pertaining to His character and compassion), and the promise fulfilled: a reward for diligently seeking Him. Nevertheless, aside from what must be considered by some to be insurmountable odds, this woman demonstrated faith in Jesus.

Secondly, she came back because of focus. When an offense comes to the average Christian, the first thing they do is cry out to their buddies about how bad things are, or possibly they complain to God about how mean He’s being to them.  However, the Canaanite woman didn't pay any attention to her neighbors, but put her focus on Jesus.  And she did what ever was necessary to make sure that those standing in her way of gaining an audience with Him were pushed aside.  When God is working in your life, there will be opposition, even from those whom you think should know better.  When my wife had cancer, we were told by several seasoned Christians, persons who would be generally considered elders by today's standards, that our faith would have nothing to do with her healing.  Rather, God was in control and it was our simply our job to sit back and yield to His will in the situation.  What we see demonstrated from this woman is ignoring those who would quench her faith and maintaining her focus on Jesus.

Consider what else might have happened: if this woman had turned away after being spurned by the disciples, her daughter would not have been healed.  If she had spent her time asking the question, “why did Jesus ignore me,” then her daughter would not have been healed. If she had turned away after having her nationality criticized, then her daughter would not have been healed. And if she had returned home after being called a dog, her daughter would not have been healed. But she knew who she was talking to.  She knew this Man Jesus was special, that he could heal her daughter. So she followed her faith and focused on Jesus, not the circumstances, not those trying to push her away, and not the offenses that He cast in her direction.

And that’s why we fail and fall away: we focus on the circumstances, on anything but Jesus. When offenses come, we pay attention to the offenses instead of the Lord God who supplies all our need. And amazingly enough, God will bring an offense into your life. Not because He’s in the mood to test your metal or that He doesn’t already know what kind of metal you're made of, but because you need to see exactly what type of metal you’re made of.

And this woman had the right stuff, the right metal. When she followed her assurance of that which was hoped for and her conviction of that which was unseen (Hebrews 11:1), then she opened the door walked into the experience of having her daughter healed. For that is what true faith brings: experience.

So the next time an offense falls your way, determine what you’re going to pursue and how you’re going to pursue it. Will you respond to the offense, or will you seek after God?

No comments:

Breaking Your Jesus Paradigm

Pastors have taught a simple understanding of Jesus for hundreds of years - perhaps even thousands of years. That simple understanding is ...