Monday, May 4, 2015

Scandalous

Matthew 24: 10-12 At that time many will fall away [become offended] and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”


The earthly ministry of Jesus was scandalous. His mother was already pregnant when she married. The Pharisees charged He disregarded Sabbath regulations. He offered cryptic teachings, which often left His disciples scratching their heads. He hung out with the wrong crowd. He riled the political authorities. He also said He was God, which put more than a few people out. Sometime in the near future Jesus will become scandalous in our day. Scandalous in a way that may stumble those who follow Him.

Because Jesus did not do and say what folks thought the Messiah should, many stumbled, missing who He was. The Greek word in Matthew 24 for ‘falling away’ is skandilizo. It is used frequently in the New Testament. I always thought this referred to unbelievers or back-sliders…something like that. But the word actually means, “to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause offense.” So the kind of falling away that Jesus is warning believers about is the stumbling block that comes when life takes a sharp left turn, leaving us wondering where the heck God is. We are warned that our unmet expectations can cause us to mistrust, even desert God. So we too must take care not to stumble when Jesus works in ways we don't expect or desire. 

That is scary to me, because I know about offense. I’ve been offended when money was tight. I’ve been offended when I was disappointed. I’ve been offended when I was not treated fairly. Or when I was criticized. Or when God was silent. Or when I was depressed. Come on! I get frustrated when the line is long at the grocery— what might happen if times get difficult or even dangerous and I begin to face real privation or even persecution? Like I said…scary.

Offense can be a killer, mostly because we feel so justified when we are experiencing it. Anger and judgment somehow seem the right response when the almighty "I" isn't treated with due deference. But offense can build walls that separate us from each other and from God. When events seem to indicate that what we believe about God is not true, or that God has somehow become untrustworthy, offense is waiting with a quick response. Jesus warned His disciples to beware cold love and offense, because it must be possible to become offended to the point of ‘falling away.’ Otherwise He would not have warned us. I do not want to deceive myself into thinking that this verse applies to other people, but not me. That would be foolish…and irrational too, considering my history.

God plans to shake everything that can be shaken (Hebrews 12:27). Some shaking has begun already, and we know more is to come. It's His love that causes Him to do so. We have so many things we depend upon rather than, or in addition to Him. He's got to shake that stuff loose, so we are clinging to Him alone. When He shakes my provision and my security and my expectations and my Americanism, I want humility and love and acceptance to arise, rather than offense. 

In order to better recognize His hand, even when things seem badly out of control, I need to know Him better. I am grateful that He is always willing to answer a desire for more of Him. I want to know Him in His Word. I want to know Him in prayer. I want to know Him in worship. I want to know Him in my friends. I want to know His voice. Only by really knowing Him can I recognize Him in the midst of chaos and confusion. Then when everything is shaking, I will be able to recognize the one thing not shaking—Him. I want my faith and trust to be so complete that even when everything around me is telling me that God has failed, I can rest, choosing to believe that He has not. No matter what the future holds, I do not want to be scandalized by Jesus.

 

Haggai 2:6-7 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while, I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty.”

Hebrews 12:27 “the words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a well-worded warning and encouragement.

    ReplyDelete

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