Message: Luke 17 starts off talking about offenses. Jesus was warning that it is impossible to avoid offenses. We are all going to deal with it, whether we ourselves are offended, or we have offended someone else. There is a very strong warning here “woe to the one they come through. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” I look at this warning in two ways. We can either be the one who offends people, or we can be the one who spreads the toxicity of our offenses. Obviously, we are going to offend people sometimes without realizing it because there is something going on within themselves, but unless we are living in a world of denial, we all know when we are intentionally being offensive to someone. When we intentionally push buttons that we know will get a reaction. The next question is who are the “little ones” he is speaking about in this passage. It almost sounds like he is talking about children, but he is actually talking about disciples of Christ. The little may haven been a word interpreted for young ones, meaning young or small in their faith. Regardless, we are accountable for how our behavior affects those who are following our example. The very next few verses tell us to be on our guard and if our brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. There is a lot of “if” going on in all of this but we were intended to sharpen and challenge each other in our growth. Notice that this is not talking about judgment. It’s talking about correction for our growth. Our culture tends to use these ideas interchangeably so there is a misconception that observation of sin and judgment are the same and it they are most certainly not. A rebuke is a loving correction, but a judgment is condemning. Jesus challenges them even further in verse 4 when he tells them “if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times saying “I repent” you must forgive him. I don’t think there is any coincidence that the very next verse is where the apostles tell Jesus “increase our faith”. This is where Jesus tells them if they have the faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to this mulberry tree “be uprooted and planted in the see” it will obey you. It takes faith to forgive and I found it fascinating that the footnotes describe the mulberry tree is one with deep and complex root system, so if you read this all in context, Jesus warns us about offenses, he tells us to forgive our brothers who sin against us over and over and then he tells us that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can command those deep rooted offenses to be uprooted and thrown into the sea.
Command: Be careful of offenses, don’t cause them and don’t spread them. Call out sin and forgive our brothers who offend us (sin against us) and deal with our offenses at the root so we aren’t carrying them around.
Promise: Jesus promised that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can deal with offenses at the root and get rid of them.
Warning: If we are the cause of a disciple of Christ stumbling because of OUR offenses, we are accountable for that and it is no joke. Scripture says it would be better if we were drowned to death.
Application: There is so much going on here, but bottom line is that I am accountable for what I do with the offenses in my life. If someone has sinned against me and I don’t deal with it, it will become an underground deep rooted system that becomes more difficult to remove as it grows. We have to have uncomfortable conversations , we have to forgive and we have to have faith to remove these root systems that want to dig down deep in our hearts. If we don’t deal with those roots we are sure to spread the toxicity and we are absolutely accountable for that.