Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Offense

I can’t breathe without offending someone.

Literally.

And neither can you.

I breathe in the wrong direction. I breathe at the wrong time. I breathe from the wrong distance. I breathe with my face covered. I breathe with my face uncovered.

I can’t breathe without offending someone.

I can’t live if I don’t breathe.

I can’t live without offending someone.

Welcome to the process of reopening from the coronavirus lock-down.

Face it: we’re all going to offend someone, multiple someones, multiple times, every day. The fantasy of living with others in non-offense is gone.

If I’m masked-up, I automatically eliminate and exclude some who have trouble hearing. My voice is muffled by my mask; they cannot see my lips. My mask says to them, “You don’t matter. I care more about myself or other things or other people than you and your participation.”

If I’m unmasked, I automatically eliminate and exclude some who are in a high-risk group for one reason or another, or are fearful. My unmasked face says to them, “You don’t matter. I care more about other things and other people than you, your health, and/or your feelings.”

So I have to breathe. I have to breathe out my offense at being tagged as offensive, my defensiveness, my frustration, my explanations, my exhortations, my demands, my opinions, my view of “the facts.” I must breathe out my offense at being offensive. I have to breathe in the Holy Spirit’s presence; His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I have to breathe not just air, but humility, because I am going to offend someone. I don’t want to, but I won’t be able not to offend someone. My breathing offends; so my being offends.

How can we ever navigate these treacherous waters of re-opening?

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Only a God-filled people will find a way to be together, overcoming inevitable offenses with inexhaustible grace. Only a God-filled people will find a way to live together in love, service, unselfishness, and other-centeredness … while still finding a way to breathe.

This is our moment. Now is the time. Either we prove able to be the church or we will show what we really are.

The Greater Scandal

A Pharisee invited Jesus for dinner (Luke 7:36-50). Somehow a woman of notorious reputation entered uninvited. She brought her tears and a flask of perfume. Kneeling at Jesus’ feet her tears fell upon them. She unlatched her hair and used it to wipe the teardrops from His unwashed feet. She kissed Jesus’ feet several times. Then she sacrificed what was probably her most valuable earthly possession by pouring the perfume over Jesus’ feet. (listen to this post here)

The host was scandalized. He sat silent, but inwardly he thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus knew what was going on inside Simon’s heart … and the woman’s.

So he said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

Jesus told a story of two men who owed a moneylender. One owed him over one-and-a-half years’ worth of wages; the other about two months’ worth. The moneylender canceled both debts.

“Which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked.

“The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“You have judged rightly” Jesus said.

But then another scandal took place. Luke sets it up, telling us, “Then turning toward the woman [Jesus] said to Simon …” (44a)

Simon has already judged four people. He judged the woman, Jesus, and the two debtors in Jesus’ story. He had “judged” the two debtors correctly, but failed miserably on the other two.

Picture the scene! Jesus rose from His position at the table, facing the woman but continuing to address Simon. Jesus looked the woman straight in the eye while He spoke to the judge who condemned her.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisee for failing to welcome Him by washing His feet and praised the woman for doing what he had not. Jesus said to Simon as he looked the woman in the eyes: “I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then Jesus, maintaining His physical posture and eyesight toward the woman, spoke directly to her in the presence of her judge, “Your sins are forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

If you are more like the woman than the Pharisee, you need to know that Jesus is doing this very thing on your behalf right now. We are told that Satan accuses Christ’s people night and day before the throne of God (Rev. 12:10). But the Bible also teaches us that Jesus is there at the throne of God interceding for us, alive forever to contradict all our accusers condemning judgements against us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24)!

Thank you, Jesus, for dying and rising to forgive me my sins. Thank you for living forever to contradict every accusation that rises up against me. You have forgiven me so, so much. Enable me to love you supremely. Amen.

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