And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Mark 9:42
I began my teaching career in junior high. That was an adventure to say the least! I have been asked many times how I became a motivational speaker and my answer is always the same, “If you can teach junior high, you can do ANYTHING!” I will forever be a more patient, joyful, compassionate and understanding person because of the time I spent in the presence of those wonderful little hormonal and emotional time-bombs!
One of the things I remember hearing daily among the kids at that age was
the phrase, “No offense but…” I tried and tried and tried to help them
understand that if they had to begin the conversation with those words, it was indeed GOING to be offensive. The remarks that followed that famous phrase were usually about something insignificant like hair or shoes, however this passage from Mark's Gospel is referring to a whole different kind of offense...a truly monumental offense.
Have you noticed how often people “water down” the truth and their own personal convictions in the name of “not offending” anyone. Sometimes we dance around the truth so many times we don’t even remember what it was! We worry about offending the political and religious ideas and beliefs of people we have never met. We worry about offending adults, children, governments, institutions and people half way around the world but yet we don’t always think hard enough about offending the very God who loves us, protects us and breathed us into being.
In a sermon a while back, our pastor, Fr. James shared a comment the had heard at a retreat. He said the speaker had told them that “The Gospel can be offensive.” What? I had to chew on that one a few weeks before it became clear. When we look at the Gospels as our directive for living instead of merely a set of suggestions, they can be offensive, especially if we’re living only bits and pieces of the Gospel message. Every time we live in a way that opposes the teachings of Jesus, we offend God. I think He must be offended on a regular basis. We live in a society that will spend hundreds of dollars to “re-word” a statement or document so it doesn’t offend someone but yet our behaviors offend the Almighty on a regular basis and we don’t seem to give it due notice. I have to pause a bit and ask myself how offended God is when I think judgmental thoughts about one of His beloved children. I have to wonder how offended He is each time I choose to spend time on the screen, instead of on my knees. I wonder if He is offended by popular music, the garbage on television or the books that depict characters and plots that do anything but uphold the Gospel message. I really wonder if the thing that offends Him the most is the way our society seems to have become immune to it all.
If Jesus came to live in our home for a day, would we feel the need to change the channel on the TV or hide the book we were reading. I wonder if Jesus would say, “I wish you’d worry more about offending my Father in Heaven and worry less about offending people of this world.” If trying our hardest to avoid offending God became the mission of every Christian, I think we’d be amazed at the dramatic change that would occur in our world. So…go ahead and read the Gospels and be offended…that’s where He begins to speak to our heart. I want to avoid that conversation where Jesus says, "Sheri, no offense but..."
A seed to plant: Draw one of the four names from a hat, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John…read that Gospel slowly and carefully over the next few days…ask God to offend you and then slather you with His Grace so you can make a change.
Blessings on your day!
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