I went to the doctor last week for my physical. I turned forty in September and decided I needed to start having an annual physical. Actually my wife decided that for me, if it were up to me I would not go to the doctor until I had severed a limb from my body…and even then I would probably try to convince her that it was just a flesh wound. So I go to my doctor’s office for my appointment, I like my doctor because he’s older than me. I am getting to that age when I’m suspicious of anyone claiming to be a doctor who looks younger than I do, it wouldn’t matter his credentials, if a guy came in wearing a doctors coat who is young than I am, I’d tell him to hit the road because the real doctor will be here soon and he’ll be mad at you for impersonating him. As my doctor is performing his exam he tests my reflexes with the little rubber hammer deal…whatever that is called. He hits my knee with the little hammer deal, and my reflexes, being in good working order, automatically activated…my leg moved. This involuntary reaction is known as a knee-jerk reaction. A knee-jerk reaction is an involuntary reaction caused by the sudden blow to the tendon. (Thanks Webster’s) We humans we can’t control these kind of reactions. Just like sneezing with your eyes open, it just can’t be done.
There is another kind of knee-jerk reaction we as humans have a tendency to make as well…and that is being offended. You see, occasionally people will offend us and even though the polite thing to do is ignore these offenses and overlook these offenses, sometimes we just don’t. Sometimes we blow up and overreact because we are offended…and HOW DARE THEY OFFEND US. Who do they think THEY are? Well will show THEM, won’t we. Here is “the thing” though…if we are truly a Christian we will overlook these offenses even though it may not be our first knee-jerk reaction. Why will we do this? Is it because we are the “bigger person”? Or to show how morally superior we are? No…no…a thousand times no… those are fine reasons for the natural–unconverted man to overlook being offended, but we are Christ’s followers…we listen to and obey his teaching…and listen to some of his teaching here:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:27-31
You might recognize that last verse as what is commonly called “The Golden Rule” This is the rule as parents we teach our children when they’re fighting over a toy, or in my kids case, fighting over what they should play. We remember this rule when we’re being parental but forget it when we ourselves are offended (or, worse still, we justify when we do it and lie to ourselves and say that it’s different in our case.) We certainly don’t remember the verses that came before this:
Do good to those who hate you? (We justify it…But only if you feel like it right?)
Bless those who curse you? (But they insulted your family and God…so I could certainly never bless them.)
Pray for those who abuse you? (Physically or mentally? Where do I get to draw THAT line because they’re a good for nothing slime ball)
To one who strikes you–offer the other cheek as well? (So just get beat up? No thanks…I have MY rights.)
Give to everyone who begs from you? (But first conduct an interview to make sure they aren’t going to blow the money you give them on booze.)
From the one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. (BUT that is not how the government was Constitutionally set up…it’s my money…I should get to decide who it goes to and what it pays for.)
There are no qualifiers on these verse…Jesus doesn’t say: “but only if…” Jesus’ words are clear and we ignore them because why? because we can lie to ourselves? The next few verses spell out, in part, why we should obey Christ’s teaching:
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36)
When your kind to people that are kind to you…you’re acting just like everyone else. It is when we are offended and when we are tested that we have the chance to show the same love that Christ did…the same love that Christ calls us to impart on others. The love of Christ doesn’t seek revenge…it doesn’t seek to get even…or settle the score or teach them a lesson.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
We show others kindness and love because that is what Christ did for us.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Our sin is offensive to God…that same twinge of offense you feel when you’ve been slighted is infinitely multiplied by our sinful behavior toward God. In fact we hated God, we run from Him, we hide from Him, and we curse Him…and he still died for us. Jesus told a parable about just this situation (actually there are several that demonstrate this but this is the one that comes formats to mind). The Parable of The Unforgiving Servant,
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? [NOTE: Peter was probably looking for some kind of loop-hole or way to justify his own behavior, sound familiar?] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
We get offended easily and disappointed when we expect the world to act like the church. The world isn’t the church…the world is the mission field. The world is lost and will continue to act like they are lost and continue to be sinners until the ones that are His are saved by the grace of God. (and even then they will continue to sin, but that is a different topic for a different day) The world is in the dark according to the Bible…how can we fault them for being in the dark? When you’re in the dark you can’t see nothing. (You can tweet THAT) The light of Christ shines through you when you act contrary to the world. The worldly reaction is to get offended, demand your rights…etc. The Christian forgives offenses and in so doing Christ is honored and glorified.
Recently there has been quite a controversy over Starbucks producing plain red cups for the holidays. I have read the headline that pastors are even saying that Starbucks hates Christians and these red cups are proof. Christians please, can we stop being offended that the world acts like sinners and hates God? They do. God knew they would. Jesus knew they would and He is big enough to handle it, in fact…of those that are His, He has already forgiven them for it. Let’s just stop being offended so easily. it’s not Starbucks job to proclaim the gospel…it’s Walmart’s to proclaim the gospel. Those corporations don’t have to observe any kind of holiday ever…they are a business…their job is to offer goods and services…and THAT IS ALL. Your being offended that they don’t have more cheerful or “Christmas-y” holiday cups matters none at all to them and in fact they probably rather like it that you’re offended. This Christmas season when you’re offended that the cashier at Target said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” remember that your sin is ten times more offensive to God than that and that you have already been forgiven…so show the same level of forgiveness to others, whether they deserve it or not. It’s easy to be offended…it’s our knee-jerk reaction…it’s Christ-like to forgive without them asking, to forgive when you’re being insulted, to forgive when you’ve been abused, to forgive when it’s deserved the least.