Friday, April 1, 2011

Grieving the Holy Spirit: Watch Out!

"And He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Come here.' And He said to them, 'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?' But they were silent. And He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored" (Mark 3:3-5).

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:30-32).

I think the idea of "grieving the Holy Spirit" may be a bit misunderstood in the American church. Don't we tend to have an image of Him sitting by sorrowfully, perhaps with dejected, downcast demeanor, wishing we would pay attention to Him and "let Him" do what He wants to do in our lives? Maybe our ideas area little better than that, but still, do we have the understanding that by grieving Him, the Bible means that we...gulp...make Him angry?

In the passage from Mark, Jesus' anger stemmed from His being "grieved at their hardness of heart." The passage from Ephesians shows that we grieve the Holy Spirit by our bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice toward one another in the Church. In both cases we see two things: it is the arrogant and unloving treatment of one another that brings on this "grief," and this grief is His righteous anger toward our hard and ignorant hearts!

I see that I should not take Ephesians 4:30 as a verse taking up for, or trying to protect, some sort of defenseless, easily wounded or shy Holy Spirit. Instead I should see it for what it is, a warning! "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God," for His anger is kindled by our hard, unloving hearts! Because He loves us, God's discipline will be sure to follow.

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