LPNI Devotion – September 2017
The Gospel Offense
What does it take for someone or something to offend you? Can you remember the last time you were genuinely offended? What caused it? How did it make you feel? Angry? Shocked? Vengeful? What was your response? Was it something like, “How dare you!”? “How dare you question my integrity!” “How dare you insult my intelligence!” “How dare you accuse me of wrongdoing!”
Jesus was no stranger to “How dare you!” His earthly ministry lasted only three years, but it was enough time to offend all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. Some, like the Pharisees, were offended because Jesus threatened their authority and positions of power. Others, even some of his disciples, were offended because he disappointed them with the way he demonstrated his messianic calling. The Gospels record how, time and again, people were offended by something Jesus said or did, or even by something he didn’t do. Jesus responded by saying, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7:23).
Those words ring loud and clear even in our day. We live in a time and place where many are scandalized by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The offense of the gospel is understandable, if not regrettable, among unbelievers. But even those who profess to be Christians can, at times, seem uncomfortable — even embarrassed — by the exclusive claims of Christianity.
We’re all guilty. We’ve all acted as though Jesus was offensive to us. You can probably remember times when you failed to speak a corrective word to an erring sister or brother … or times you were too squeamish to defend your Christian beliefs when confronted by a neighbor, a co-worker, or a family member.
Why do we so often fail to let our Christian light shine? Are we afraid? Are we worried about what people will think of us? Or is it that deep down inside we wonder whether or not we have any faith, let alone a faith that we can speak about and share with others?
In spite of our failures God speaks a word of benediction to us. “Blessed are you. Blessed are you — not because of anything you have (or haven’t) done, but because of what I’ve done for you.
“I created you to be my own, and I’ve given you everything you need to support you in life. I redeemed you when you were a lost and condemned creature. I purchased and won you from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil with my precious blood and my innocent suffering and death. I called you by the gospel. I enlightened you with my gifts. And I’ve sanctified and kept you in the one true faith. All this I have done for you out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any required merit or worthiness on your part, so that on the Last Day I can raise you from the dead and give you eternal life.”
Blessed are those who are reminded of all their blessings. Rejoice! Blessed are you who have been washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism. Rejoice! Blessed are you who hear the words of absolution spoken to your troubled hearts. Rejoice! Blessed are you who receive the body and blood of our Lord for complete forgiveness. Rejoice! Blessed are you who trust in God to be faithful — because he has been, is, and always will be! Rejoice! Amen.
(The devotion is from a sermon the author wrote for Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 17, Part 1)
Pastor Kevin Karner, MDiv
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bristol, CT 06010 USA