“Offense obscures vision. Removing offense helps us see people in wonderful, new ways.” (Unoffendable, p. 23). A man named Saul was offended by many others. He grew up in an extremely strict religious group. He studied hard under the best of the best teachers. Saul felt himself superior to the Christ followers. He was offended by them and could only see them as a problem. So offended by these Christians, Saul the Pharisee gloated over the brutal death of
the innocent disciple Stephen. His offense was so strong he couldn’t see others as children of God. God saw something in Saul that no one else did, his dearly loved child. He wanted to change Saul’s vision to see people as God saw them. God had plans for this bright young man and wanted to free him from the burden of offense. So God did. Jesus himself showed up, post resurrection. Saul was then baptized in the town of Damascus and he became Paul. As Paul, he was schooled in God’s view of the Old Testament Bible by Jesus. Paul, who once schemed to capture the followers of Jesus, was transformed to being one of Christianity’s greatest advocates. When Paul saw people, he no longer was filled with offense, but compassion. The compassionate view of people shows in the two letters he wrote to a church in Corinth, one of which we will dissect a small portion of today. These verses are a way Paul validates his ability to speak for Jesus. Some people were offended at Paul’s words and perhaps saw him as a threat. They managed to sow doubt into the hearts of the Corinthians that Paul was a true messenger of Jesus. It could have been quite easy for Paul to be offended at this. They questioned him.
What in the world were they thinking? He often risked his life for the message he was sharing. He put up with the pagan-sexual sins of Corinth. First century plays that included characters from Corinth were often drunks or prostitutes. They discredit him. What ungrateful pigs! If Paul was easily offended, he would have written back an angry tweet or insulting email. Paul is patient with them. He turns them back with the call to self-examination.
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? Paul uses “test” or “examine” five times in these verses and three of them are right here in verse five. Test what? Yourselves. Why? To see if your faith is valid. If they had valid faith, then Paul’s ministry was from Jesus Christ. They have no reason to bite back at Paul. And Paul has no reason to return the insult. Paul was not offended by this challenge. It shows in how he continued to point them to the truth of Jesus. His confidence in their ability to find Jesus inside them is in the next verse. 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Paul was not easily offended because he did his own self-examination.
Have you noticed how much people today rant and rave at each other? One thing can set some off. It seems that we are walking on eggshells in the grocery store, online, in our homes, at school, at work. Everyone is on edge and easily set off. Domestic abuse is on the rise. In our climate, hurtful things are said and done to “prove myself right.” I’ve noticed it in
myself and in others. The thoughts and words are so hurtful. Aren’t you sick of carrying around the burden of offense?
You can be perpetually shocked and offended by what people say and do but let’s be honest, isn’t it kind of exhausting?
Self-examination removes offense. When Paul examined his own heart, he found sin, not just sinful actions or thoughts but sin itself. He describes the person of sin that lives inside him in Romans. Paul could have catalogued all his misdeeds. But he chose to attack the heart of the problem, his own sinful heart and condition. If sins (certain actions or behaviors) were all that was wrong with us then all we would need is a self-improvement plan. If you’re a thief, stop stealing. If you gossip, stop talking. If you are a liar, tell the truth. But sin is much deeper than that. It is deeply entrenched in who we are. It infects our DNA and so taints everything we do, even our good things.
Paul wasn’t shocked by the Corinthians lack of trust for him because he knew what was in his own heart. But this makes his question about what we find in self-examination even more shocking. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?
Jesus chose to dwell in the mud pit of our hearts. Jesus chose to nuzzle deep into your heart which is the same place as your anger and judge mentalism
of others. He gave up heaven to live in you. Wonder in amazement at his grace. Paul said earlier in the letter, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Paul’s phrasing is very peculiar. Jesus didn’t just take on our sins, but he
became our sin. He had no sin but became sin for us. In him, we might become the righteousness of God. So when you examine yourself, you find Jesus. Self-examination is this: Recognize your brokenness and then gaze at the beauty of God’s manifested love and grace breaking into your heart. What if you could look inside yourself and be fully confident and at peace? What if you could wake up every day with an enriching experience and you don’t need some self-help, self-talk to pump up your self-esteem (I am great! I accept myself! I am amazing!). Jesus lives in you. He purifies all he dwells. To be less offended by what we see, you need self-examination along with prayer and forgiveness (through the word) every day. Every morning take time to come before God and say, “Lord, I acknowledge that I am completely broken without you. I keep coming back to the same sins over and over again. I, in myself, am sin. But you dwell in my heart. You purify this house from all sin. Help me live as your child today.”
This type of self-examination will change the way you live. Paul concludes. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Paul is not concerned about his own reputation as he explains. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. “Offense obscures vision. Removing offense helps us see people in wonderful, new ways.” Yes, the world is broken, but don’t be offended by it. Instead, thank God that he has intervened in it. His kingdom is breaking through, bit by bit. Recognize it and wonder at it. Recognize our current state, and then replace the shock and anger with gratitude. A real estate agent shows a couple house. This one certainly is a fixer upper. It has tires and junk in the overgrown yard. As the agent begins the tour he smiles and explains, “This could be a beautiful stone path lined with flowers.” Then he jiggles the key and pushes open the door as peeling paint fall on the tattered front porch. Inside, the smell of animals
tickles the nostril hairs and the couple is glad to have masks on for the first time. The agent kicks a box of junk to the side and admires, “This could be a living room where the kids could laugh and play.” Every room, the agent seems un-phased by the creaking floors and stained doors. “This place could be beautiful.” The agent sees differently. God sees things we don’t. He must because he hasn’t’ vaporized us yet. He must look at a seriously messed-up world
and still see what can be done with it. He sees people he redeemed. He sees souls who were purchased by his Son. He sees you, sinner yet saint. He sees something wonderful. Examine yourself, find Jesus. Find Jesus and see people in a wonderful new way.
Pastor Josh Bishop – 10/11/2020