Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grieving God

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 4:30 NKJV

Have you ever had your feelings hurt? Has there ever been a time where someone close to you, someone you really cared about did or said something to hurt you? I think it is safe to say that we all have, as it seems almost impossible to go through life without experiencing this kind of hurt from those who are close to us. I think it is also safe to say that the reason it hurts so bad is that this kind of hurt can only come from those we are closest to, from those who we really care about and would not expect it from.

Yet as we tend to focus on the hurts we receive from others, are we honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge that we might be hurting the one who is closest to us? In this chapter of Ephesians Paul is instructing believers concerning the changes in our behavior which are a result of our new relationship with Christ. After he talks about those changes, he then uses this verse to remind us that the failure to exhibit the attitudes expected from true believers results in “grieving” the Holy Spirit. The word used here for grieve is “lypeŇć” which translated means “to make sorrowful, to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow, to grieve, offend, to make one uneasy, cause him a scruple.”

When my daughters were quite young, they had a saying they would use whenever they felt they experienced any sort of injustice from a family member. They would look the offender in the eye and say “you made baby Jesus cry”. Now quite often that made us laugh, and it was common for it to be used in a humorous way, yet if you think about it how often do we really acknowledge that we can, in fact, grieve the Holy Spirit in this way? There are things we can do which actually cause the Holy Spirit to be sad, offended, and deeply hurt. Why is He hurt so badly? Because He loves us so much that He made the greatest sacrifice He could by sending His Son to die for our sins, which is the gift which “seals” us for the “day of redemption”.

So what is it we do that grieves the Holy Spirit this badly? Paul tells us in the next two verses.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31,32 NKJV

Simply put it is our reaction to those who offend us, and our unwillingness to forgive them which grieves the Holy Spirit. Paul spends an entire chapter explaining how we are to be changed by our decision to become believers and to allow God to enter our lives and show us His way. He makes the point that when we do make this decision, a changed life is not only desired, but expected. We are not to walk as the world walks, and as we used to, but to walk in a manner that demonstrates the power of God's love which is now in us.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV

It seems apparent as well from the context that Paul is talking about our relationships with our fellow believers, and especially how we choose to treat them. Why is that? As we have said before, we would all agree that the biggest hurts come from those who are closest to us, and who is closer than our own family? So what is the key to maintaining the unity of our family? How are we to react when we are offended by something someone does or says that causes us to hurt? Paul tells us in the very last verse in the chapter when he says “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. “

So how has God forgiven us? Let me share just a few things that came to mind when I began to think seriously about that question.

Unconditionally. The first thing I thought of in my own life is that no matter what I have done, God has forgiven me. Doesn't matter what it was, how big a sin, how offensive to Him, He forgives. How often have we looked at something someone else has done and said “I can't forgive them for that!” Truth be told, you can, you just choose not to. How often have you found yourself trying to justify feeling the way you do towards another? Honestly, if you have to try and justify it you have already admitted you are wrong.

Repeatedly. So I have finally arrived at the point in my life where I no longer sin? Wrong. We all struggle with sin, and as long as we are trapped in this body we will sin. I don't like it, you don't like it, but we all have a sin nature and we all sin. However no matter how often we fall, God is willing to forgive us time after time after time. Do you know someone who continually offends you by sinning? Is your attitude towards them one of reluctance to forgive because “they” don't change? How comfortable would you be if God refused to forgive you because “you” didn't change? Our attitude towards others should always be to forgive and never hesitate to extend to them the same forgiveness God extends to us.

Genuinely. “Talk is cheap”. Ever hear that expression? Most of us have at one time or another, and I'm sure most of us understand that the meaning behind it is clear; talk is no good if it is not backed up by action. Try another one; “if you are going to talk the talk, walk the walk”. Did you notice something in the last verse of this chapter? When God instructs us to forgive someone, He tells us first to be kind. This is not describing an attitude, but rather an action. We are being told to treat someone who offends us in a kind manner, rather than striking out in anger letting our emotions get the best of us. How many of us would be here if God struck out at us “unkindly” every time we sinned?

Our sin does not affect God's love, His patience, nor His actions towards us. Our feelings and patience and actions towards sin from a brother or sister should not be any different. Is there a brother or sister you are holding something against? Is there someone in the family you treat unkindly because you just can't bring yourself to forgive them? If so, according to this passage you are grieving the Holy Spirit, hurting Him worse than you yourselves are hurt. Should we not follow God's example towards us?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NKJV

Keep watching. ( and forgiving )