Are you Grieving the Holy Spirit?
Let’s play a little word association: in your mind, think of a picture for the word “grieve.” Done? Good…. Let me describe to you mine; it is a woman, dressed in all black, off by herself, with her head bowed down and a veil covering her face. Obviously, in my scenario the woman is grieving the loss of a loved one. I associated “grieve” with a funeral. In Old Testament times, when a person was grieving, they would dress themselves in sackcloth, stop eating, and rub dirt on their heads. So, if you were walking around town with your buddy and saw somebody in that condition, you might say to your pal, “oh, he’s grieving, let’s just leave him alone,” or words to that effect.
When I played the word association game at church – in a slightly different way, asking people to shout out the first word that came to their minds when I said… “grieve,” the responses were things like sadness, death, and funeral. Now, if you are a Christian and realize that the Holy Spirit is the one whom convicted you of your sin and drew you to Jesus and then sealed your salvation; if you realize that He is the one whom illuminates our minds and teaches the ways of the Lord; if you realize that the Holy Spirit is how God communicates to our souls through our spirit; if you realize He is God with us…. then surely we can agree that we do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit. Take a look at what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the church at Ephesus:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 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. (Ephesians 4:29-31)
There you have it, Ephesians 4:30. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We know who the Spirit is and what “grieve” means. And we certainly don’t want to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God!” This brings up the question, how do you grieve the Holy Spirit? If we are going to avoid doing it, we’d better know what it is, right? If you look closely at Ephesians 4:29-31, you will see what grieves the Spirit. It’s right there: absence of grace grieves God. Take a look just prior to the command in verse 30, and you will see the encouragement to speak in a way that builds people up so that it will give grace to those who hear. Failure to offer grace grieves the Holy Spirit. Failure to offer grace grieves God.
The Gospel of Mark, chapter 3 tells the story of Jesus entering into a Jewish synagogue one Saturday (Sabbath) and noticing a man who had a “withered” hand. There were people watching Jesus closely. They knew He was performing tremendous miracles wherever He traveled, and they were ready to see if he would perform a miracle on the Sabbath, which (in their minds) would have broken the Mosaic Law, giving them something to accuse Him of in order to discredit Him. Jesus asked the man to come forward and asked the legalists, Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill? There was no reply as they continued to watch and wait. Then Scripture says this, After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:5)
Jesus was angry, but He was also grieved. Why? Jesus was grieved because He was about to give grace (unmerited favor) to a man with a withered hand, but there were people in the synagogue more interested in their legalistic (and inaccurate) interpretation of Old Testament Law. This word “grieve” is the same word used in Ephesians 4, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Jesus worked His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus did not ask the man to first give a designated amount of money to charity. He didn’t ask the man to go to rehabilitation and get the muscles strong enough to make restoration possible. Jesus was offering physical healing by grace alone. What Jesus asked the man to do was stretch out his hand and receive a gift! And Jesus was grieved by people who took a stance against grace. Remember that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both fully God and a perfect unity. Absence of grace grieves God.
Set Your Phasers to Stun GRACE
Any Star Trek fans out there? You may recall that any time Captain Kirk found his crew and himself in a battle, but he didn’t want to kill the enemy, the order would go out, “set your phasers to stun.” Well, just like the crew of the Starship Enterprise, we are also armed with a deadly weapon. Our weapon can deliver a deadly blow but can also deliver life! The weapon of which I speak is located on the bottom half of your face–your mouth! This weapon has the power to deliver life or death, to tear down or build up. Let’s respect the power of this weapon and every morning before we enter into the world. Let’s change the setting from “kill” to “GRACE!” Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit in you, my Christian brothers and sisters. Rather, speak grace to this fallen physical world. If you wait for someone to earn your grace, it ceases to be grace. Give unmerited favor to your brothers and sisters and, yes, even to the lost. Hit them with stunning grace that brings life!
In angry situations, speak peace. In contentious situations, speak reconciliation. To those who are lonely, speak love. To those who are lost, speak of Jesus. Hit this world with unmerited, radical, unexpected, life-giving grace. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Grace and peace to you.