And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. - Matthew 24:10
This week we turn our attention to the next major attack on the Church in the Last Days: offense. We aren't talking about the exciting half of football. We're talking about what happens when the pressure amps up. We're looking at what happens when all the persecution and circumstances come to a head? Will people stand tough, or will they walk away? This week's devotion answers all of these questions and more.
What is Offense?
The term for offense in this scripture can be interpreted to mean "to cause one to begin to distrust and desert what he ought to trust and obey. Basically, it's the the urge to run from what we know is right. Reading the last sentence, it might be difficult to wrap our minds around. What can cause an individual to abandon something they have known is true. They've experienced it, witnessed it, felt it themselves. They know it's real and yet they leave it. However, Christians do it every day and they've done it since the beginning of the Church. Why do they do it, though?
The Reasons For Offense
Paul experienced people leaving their faith near the end of his ministry. In 2 Timothy, he laments to his closest follower that some of his other followers had abandoned him:
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. - 2 Timothy 1:15
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. - 2 Timothy 4:10
At both ends of this final letter to Timothy, Paul discusses how specific people who once followed him had chosen to leave. What might have caused them to do it?
Phygellus and Hermogenes most likely left Paul when the times got tough. Seeing Paul suffer and struggle for his faith did not appeal to them and so they turned and walked no more (John 6:66). Meanwhile, Demas decided that the cares of this life mattered more to him than the ministry he had been blessed to occupy. Others departed for various reasons and Paul even states that he felt abandoned by everyone(2 Timothy 4:16).
There are a lot of reasons for people to abandon their cause, even though they know it's the right and just one. There is no cause greater than to serve Christ. However, struggle, strife and the lure of the secular world can pull many people away from this divine Truth. Couple that with what we are expected to experience in the Last Days, and it's no wonder Christ said that many would be offended.
Where Offense Leads
Offense doesn't stop at turning away, though. The Devil doesn't just want us to turn away from God. He wants us to come to hate and fight against Christ and those who serve him. Jesus was betrayed by an offended disciple. The hate that must have filled Judas' heart to give up the Messiah must have been great. He had seen the miracles. He had heard the mighty sayings. He could piece the scriptures together. Jesus was the One. Yet, he turned on Christ. He got offended at the things Christ said and the actions Christ took and it caused him to betray his Master and those who followed Him.
The Devil desires to separate us from both God and those who follow him, to get us offended. Once he achieves that, he pushes for us to fight against that which we once followed. He'll put lies in our minds to go with the hate that resides in our hearts. He'll lead us to positions where we can spew our disdain for Jesus and the Church to others. We'll become witnesses for the world centering around how we got hurt.
The Proper Reaction To Offensive Action
All the while, though. Christ is standing and calling to us, "Friend." God cares about us. He doesn't refuse anyone the right to return to his kingdom. He stands at the door and knocks on all who have walked away from their walk (Rev. 3:20). He makes ways of escape for those who have fallen into wickedness (Rev. 2:16, 24). We might get offended and it might lead to acts of betrayal and hate, but Jesus will never let go of His love for us.
That's why when someone rails against the church, we don't rail against them. Paul may have name dropped some dissenters, but he doesn't levy curses or ill wishes against any of them. In fact, he mirrors the martyr Stephen with his response:
I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. (2 Timothy 4:16)
That's our response to when people abandon us and then turn and attack. Love them regardless. Don't justify their actions or excuse them as having not made a mistake. But pray for them that they might escape judgment. What a merciful concept. That's how we must live. If we do, we might see someone redeemed. Even if they aren't, we'll have come that much closer to truly living as Christ. And that's the life we're called to live.
We'll be taking a break from the Podcast this week, but will return next week. Until then, God bless and keep searching.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.