During the last few months, I felt God placed in my heart a series of pictures in my heart to shape and direct my prayers in praying for the church.
In the first picture, I saw a beautiful plush museum/art gallery style room- you know the kind I mean – mood lighting, red carpets, exotic artificial plants, gold link guard rails… Arranged around the room were glass coffins, each containing a comatose person with a little baby sitting at the foot of each person. The children were crying and needed to be fed, but when others (who were not comatose) picked up the children to feed them, they too ended up comatose in a coffin with a child of their own.
And I felt that what God was revealing through this picture is that there are a number of people with the Church who are hurt and carrying bitterness in their hearts. The crying child represents their need for comfort and nourishment. Yet, at the same time, bitterness defiles others too. Bitter and offended hearts become comatose, unable/unwilling to receive or give love. Bitterness causes us to walk away from the purposes of God and seek to do our own will and get justice by our arm of flesh.
There has been a lot of talk in certain Christian circles about the Absalom spirit. Many pastors/teachers have written about it warning against carrying bitterness, getting offended, or discussing one’s hurt feeling with others. Yes, such teaching is needed, and yes, we need to guard our hearts against getting defiled by bitterness and defiling others with our pain.
However, all this is dealing with surface issues. One needs to look at the climate which allows the ‘Absalom’ spiritsto flourish. One needs to make it impossible for these ‘spirits’ to operate in the first place.
The story of Absalom and the lasting repercussions of his rebellion can be found in 2 Sam 13 onwards. It begins with the tragedy of Tamar. She was raped by her half-brother Amnon who subsequently rejects her and casts her out. Absalom is angered by what is done to his sister. David too is angry, but does nothing to either discipline Amnon or comfort Tamar. Two years pass by. Absalom invites David to his house. David refuses. Absalom asks permission for Amnon and the other brothers to visit him. There he kills Amnon. David cries bitterly when he hears of Amnon’s death. A further 3 years pass with Absalom in exile. David misses him. Has Absalom brought back to Jerusalem but refuses to meet Absalom…. And the sad story of hardening hearts, deepening wounds continues till it culminates in Absalom undermining David’s authority, his outright rebellion and death.
As I read through these chapters, I kept wondering how events would have turned out if David had taken steps to establish justice for Tamar… how things would have turned out if he had taken the time to talk things through with Absalom – explain his reasons for not tackling Amnon, listened to Absalom’s grievances…
As I thought about Absalom & David, and thought about the way the ‘spirit of offense’ operates within the church, I felt that God placed these points in my heart on how to pray against the ‘spirit of offense’.
We need to pray for-
• Protection for our hearts against being easily offended.
• For each of us to grow in union with Christ.
• Discernment to know which offenses must be overlooked and forgiven and which offenses must be dealt with by open dialogue in a spirit of reconciliation.
• Willingness to share hurts and offenses not in an accusatory tone, but with love, and with a desire for reconciliation.
• Grace to freely forgive, and the love to make sure that those who are hurt are comforted and restored.
• An openness to the Holy Spirit revealing to us the ways in which WE may have hurt someone, and the willingness and humility to go and ask for forgiveness. “If you … are about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge/grievance a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” Matt 5:23-24 (MSG)
• Clarity of vision to be able to see the true enemy. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness. In the love of the Holy Spirit, we should learn to link arms against the onslaught against the unity of the Church. It is only when we – leadership and laity begin to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, that this attack will be broken.
• Wisdom and freedom from apathy for leaders. An unwillingness to rock the boat and tackle issues can actually lead to serious rifts and schisms within the Body from which it would be hard to recover.
If we say that we are in the light,
yet hate others,
we are in the darkness to this very hour…
we walk in it and do not know where we are going,
because the darkness has made us blind.
God is light, and there is no darkness at all in Him.
If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him,
yet at the same time live in the darkness,
we are lying both in our words and in our actions.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Whoever says “I know Him”
but does not keep His commandments is a liar,
and the truth is not in him,
but whoever keeps His word,
in him truly the love of God is perfected.
… whoever says he abides in him
ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 Jn 2:9,11; 1 John 1:5-7 1 John 2:4-6
“This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
I am sure all of you have learnt valuable lessons over the years of walking with the Lord on how to overcome the Spirit of Offense. I would be honoured if you shared your experiences and insights – it would help me to gain a deeper understanding of how to pray for the Shalom of the Body of Christ.