I like the Letter of James in the New Testament. Well, I say “like,” but that is maybe not the most honest word for me to use, for I find it uncomfortably straightforward in the way that it addresses what it means to pursue a commitment to Christ in real daily living. (Take time to read it over the next couple of days and you will see what I mean.) It leaves no room for my sin to manoeuvre! One of the things we are told by James is that we should be slow to take offence. Paul tells us that one of the characteristics of love is that it is not quick to take offence. Taking offence seems to be so much part of the way humanity is, that we can make a reason for taking offence out of almost anything and indeed out of nothing at all. I have been reading 2 Corinthians lately. It seems that at least some in Corinth took offence because Paul would not take money from them for preaching the gospel. He could have and it would have been permissible, indeed Paul calls it his “right” which he chose to set aside. There is nothing wrong with those who preach or teach being paid. On the contrary, the Bible tells us if someone does that task well, they are to be paid double. I have never had the courage to tell that to any of my congregations in a serious and convincing way! Perhaps if pastors did so they would they would make some discoveries they would rather not make. Firstly, they might discover whether the congregation felt their pastor was preaching and teaching well…or not. Secondly, they might soon find out whether their congregation really wanted to be a biblical church after all! According to my bible, amongst many other things, there are two matters that a biblical church should be attending to: paying hard working pastors double and learning to move in the gifts of Spirit in a church service, especially learning to prophesy… but I will not go off on that tangent … at least not today… and yes, I am being deliberately provocative and enjoying being so!
Paul himself had made his own personal decision before God not to make his living from his ministry. It was a decision he strenuously guarded, and it caused offence in Corinth. I find that amazing; taking offence because someone wants to offer you something freely and forego their right to payment. Mind you, as I wrote that last sentence it sort of reminded me of a bad tempered Board Meeting in one church where someone suggested that the gift of a piano should not be accepted, nor should we record thanks for it in the minutes as it was given anonymously and the person had not asked for permission to give it! Anyway, back now to Paul and his strained relationship with the Corinthian church. It seems that some influential voices, either native or visiting Corinth, had suggested Paul’s unwillingness to profit from the gospel showed he was not a true Apostle. It was, quite frankly, a ridiculous reason for the Corinthians to take offence. Perhaps it also shows us how the seeds of Prosperity Gospel thinking adulterated the stream of church life even at the start.
I simply invite you as I invite myself right now to look at where we may be holding on to a real or imagined offence. Do you or I perhaps need to acknowledge that we are being ridiculous? Even if the offence is real, it still remains true that love is not quick to take offence.
So a challenge: this week, let’s see if we can let go of the strong urge to take offence when it rears its head. If you feel “found out” as you read this bog, then learn once more the simple fact that the Bible as so often happens, has your number and has read your emails. That should not surprise us, for all Scripture is breathed by the God who made us, who knows what is in us, who loves us and wants us to find the narrow path that leads to life in all its fullness.