Being offended at God



I've known so many people who are offended at God.

They've never said it like that before, but that's what they are. Offended. I know what it's like. I've been offended by Him too.

Remember the time John the Baptizer (not "the Baptist," John didn't commence the first denomination) was put in prison for denouncing Herod's marriage? John is stuck in prison, apart from his family and friends, with plenty of time to reflect on his life. Sitting there in silence, smelling the refuse around his feet, John probably began to ponder: "Is Jesus the Messiah or not? If he is, what in the world am I doing in here? Are we not cousins? Is he not talking about God's reign of deliverance? Didn't I baptize that guy? Why am I still in here? What's he waiting on?!"

Of course, I don't know exactly what John was thinking. Yet, I bet he thought something close to this because of what happened. In Matthew 11, we hear:

"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, 'Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?' And Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.'"

We don't know what John's tone was when he asked if Jesus was the One or should they wait for another. We don't know. But from what Jesus said at the very end, one wonders if it wasn't in frustration. "Daggum it! (John was from Texas) Are you the Messiah or not?!"

"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me," Jesus said. In fact, the verb "to take offense" means "to be scandalized" (the same verb used when Jesus says that it'd be better for a person to be killed than to cause a little one to be "scandalized" (Lk 17:2). In that context, it means "to cause to sin." Here, it means "to take offense" or "to cause to turn away from God.")

If I were John, I think I would have thought: "The blind can see, the lame can walk, lepers are healed, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told that they will inherit the Kingdom of God, but I'm still stuck in jail. Wonderful. Yeah for deaf people! Yeah for the lame! But I'm still stuck in jail. Is God against those in prison? Does he hate people in jail?"

"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me," Jesus said.

"Blessed" in the Aramaic (Jesus's native tongue) meant something like "congratulations to" or "fortunate" or "happy." Jesus is saying, "And congratulations to those who are not offended by the way I do things."

I wonder what your offense is?

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, lepers are healed, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told that they will inherit the Kingdom of God, but I'm still single. Wonderful."

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but I'm still broke. Wonderful."

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but you never answered my prayer to cure the illness. Wonderful."

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but I'm still grieving like hell has decided to attack me alone. Wonderful."

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but I'm still wrestling with so many questions. Wonderful."

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but I was still fired/lost my job. Wonderful."

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but I was hurt so badly by "Christians." Wonderful."

What is yours?

"The blind can see, the lame can walk, . . . but                      .  Wonderful."

"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me," Jesus said.

It's amazing to me that Jesus mentions copious things that He is, in fact, doing that demonstrate the reign of God in His life (e.g., healing the lame, etc.). So, Jesus was, in fact, doing something. People were being delivered; prayers had been answered; people were being healed. But not for John. Deliverance was happening around John, but not for John.

For John, there was no deliverance. There was no quick fix. In fact, John stayed in that jail until he was beheaded (Matt 14:10). Some God. Some reign of God that is. God's prophet in the wilderness locked up and decapitated.

"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me," Jesus said.

You and I must make up our minds. Either Jesus can be trusted to know what He's doing--based on His entire ministry, death for you and me, and resurrection--or He can't be trusted. If we can trust Him, then we don't need to be offended by how He does things.

Of course, for many of us, the real problem is the deep, underlying belief that God is accountable to us. As C.S. Lewis said so perfectly in his essay, "God in the Dock" (a "dock" is the location of the accused in a British court):

"The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.” 

Do you have God "in the dock"? Are you offended at Him? 

Of course I have no idea what John was thinking before he was beheaded. Did he feel abandoned by God? Jesus himself might know what that feels like: remember what he said from the cross? Did John feel mad at God because his prayers of deliverance were never answered? Jesus himself might know what that feels like: remember the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden?

Be encouraged. Just because we don't understand exactly how the reign of God is working in each circumstance or why things "had to happen" the way they did doesn't mean God is not active in the world or in your life. It just means that we don't know everything. Is that hard to admit? Is it hard for you, like it is for me, to simply admit that we don't know why some prayers receive a "yes" and some receive a "no"? 

Sometimes, I want to put God "in the dock." I want to cut Him off because I don't like how things happened, and I don't mean because my car got a flat tire. I mean I don't like some of the very hellacious things I've been through. Sometimes, I'm just daggum offended.

But the response to being offended is twofold: (1) grieve your loss and (2) re-submit to the God who didn't ask your opinion on how to run the world. The ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus shows us that God is good and can be trusted and that He doesn't explain why everything happens the way it does.

If you're offended at God, tell Him. If you're so hurt that you've cut God off, please don't be so offended. 

My Dad heard a story on the radio the other day. I young man hitch-hiked a ride from a business man in Chicago. They talked the whole way and at one point, the young man shared the gospel with the business man. They pulled over and the man accepted Jesus. Once they got to the destination, the business man gave the young man his card. Seven years later, the young man was visiting Chicago. He decided to contact that business man. So, he went to the business and asked for the business man. The receptionist said that he wasn't available, but that he could speak with the business man's wife. He met with his wife and told her the whole story of what happened seven years earlier, including how her husband accepted Jesus. The woman began to weep.

"You see, all these years I've been so bitter toward God. He never answered my prayer. I've cut God off for seven years. I stopped going to church. I stopped praying. I stopped believing in Him."

"What did you pray?"

"I prayed for years that my husband would become a Christian and I never knew if he did or not. What day did you ride with him?"

He recalled the exact date. She stared at him in shock.

"That night my husband died in a car wreck."

Sister or brother in Christ, we just don't know how and in what way what we go through is serving the kingdom of God. God still loves you very much. Take Him out of the "dock." Stop the trial you have toward God. Just stop it. The trial is over. Stop the accusations. Give up trying to be more righteous than God. Giving up trying to be more wise than God. Give up trying to know more than God about what you think is "best." Grieve; cry out to Him. But stop your trial against Him.

Because "blessed is he who takes no offense at me," Jesus said.

I want to be blessed; I don't want to be a prosecuting attorney any more.