Matt Bennett is founder and CEO of Christian Union, a Christian leadership development organization. A native of Houston, Texas, Matt earned B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Cornell University and holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He resides in New York City.
So what do you think is the greatest sin of America? A friend of mine, George Otis, Jr., who's done a lot of these transformation videos—remarkable man who's traveled the world to study revival—in his view, the taking of offense is the greatest sin of America. He calls the United States "The United States of Offense," which is extraordinary given his exposure to revivals around the world and the sins that they deal with in order to see revival come. That is a remarkable statement and something that carries a lot of weight with me. This does happen a lot in Christian and non-Christian circles in the United States. The taking of offense, and then the unforgiveness that goes along with it, and I think maybe for a number of reasons. I'm Matt Bennett, I'm the Founder and CEO of Christian Union. Our focus is Christian leadership development for national revival and reformation.
Much of our work is with students at a bunch of the most academically intense universities in the United States, as well as among adult professionals here in New York City where I live and across the country through Christian Union Day and Night. We are in the midst of the COVID crisis here in New York, and we have 135,000 cases I think in New York City, which is unbelievable, and more than 10,000 dead, 13,000 dead or something like that. I've known a number of folks who've had it, but no one close to me has passed away from it. I've had friends who've had relatives who've passed away from it, so, it's very much hitting close to home. In times like this, it's the position of a Christian to examine ourselves and to see if there's anything in our lives that needs to be adjusted. As the Scriptures say, "If we judge ourselves, there's no need for judgment to come against."
And so, we've had this series of the six biggest sins of the United States, and my view and looking at the Scriptures, and world history, and looking at the United States. And this last one, number six, is the taking of offense and the unforgiveness that goes along with it. So we're going to look at those two aspects. What the Scripture say about the taking of offense and then the power and process of forgiveness. The benefits to this is that we understand this, is that we're able to free ourselves of this, the bondage that comes with all of this, be pleasing to the Lord in our speech, our attitudes, our actions, and attract His presence, allow and usher in a greater presence of His Holy Spirit. He says He loves it when we do what pleases Him. And that could mean all the more grace, and power, and filling in our lives.
So, first of all, the taking of offense. This does happen a lot in Christian circles and also in the population at large. I think a lot because we have the wealth to do that. We get offended by someone or family, we'll just move away. We'll just have our own job. We'll do this, and we'll do that. I think, in many ways our luxury, our wealth, and our independent mindedness gives us that luxury. Maybe in other times and situations, you had to confront things and not just have sort of a pouty attitude and get away for something. We've all been offended from time to time. It's what we do with it and how we handle it. That is what matters, especially for us as Christians. Proverbs 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." Have you ever thought of doing that to someone? I certainly have needed to do that when I've been offended by someone. Just to show them love on top of it, and people have certainly done that to me when I have offended them. Proverbs 17:9 says, "Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats the matter, separates close friends."
Proverbs 19:11 says, "Good sense makes one slow to anger and it's to his glory to overlook an offense." We almost think that it's to our glory when we take offense and we like to tell people about how this offended me and that offended me, "how dare you do that?" or say this, or whatever else and stuff. But the Scriptures have a whole different way of life. The Scriptures, even for us Christians, we don't know these Scriptures, and so we don't know this is what the Lord expects of us, but it is to His glory to overlook an offense.
May it be to all of our glory that we would look, that we would say "there's nothing anyone could ever do such that I would take offense." As one person said one time, and I agree with, is that we gave up that right when we became followers of Jesus Christ. We no longer have the right before the Lord to take offense on these different things. We gave that up when we gave our hearts to our Lord Jesus Christ.
It says this in 1 Corinthians 13:5 in the Revised English Bible, it says about love, "It's never rude. Love is never selfish, never quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs." Other translations say, "Not easily provoked" but here it says, "Never quick to take offense." That's what love is. If we want to be people who love, we want to love others as our Lord Jesus has loved us, we are to not take offense on different things. And you can only imagine the rights our Heavenly Father has to take offense at us given all the things we've done against Him in our sins, and yet He passes over it. How can we not do the same? I think this is also, the taking offense, is rooted in pride. Show ourselves how we're better than other people, or that we would never do such a thing, or whatever it is. It's something that needs to be put to death as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ and may we make it our resolve as Americans that we don't take offense, and that we reach out in love and community and stay in great relationship with others. Those of us in Christian ministry, as well as everybody, especially those who name the name of Jesus Christ.
Now the second side of this is the need for us to forgive when offense is taken, or for any matter, and there are a number of powerful passages on forgiveness. Notice this in the Lord's prayer. The Lord's prayer is only a few words long. I mean it is short, and yet see how much it has to say about forgiveness. It's amazing.
Matthew 6:12-15, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, that we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Wow, that is very powerful. That should really get our attention here, right in the Lord's prayer, it says how extraordinarily important forgiveness is. We must forgive. If we don't forgive others, we're going to have a problem between us and our heavenly Father.
Many people go about their lives and they think that God is pleased with them. They'll say this all the time and repeat things and tell each other how God is pleased with them. Well, wait a second here. If you're harboring unforgiveness towards another person, God is not pleased with you. He's not. You may be a Christian going to heaven. It doesn't mean He's pleased with you. These have to be resolved. We worship a holy God, and Jesus gives us an amazing story in Matthew 18 about the master and the unmerciful servant. You may remember it, where the servant has a master and he owes this ton of money, doesn't know how he's going to pay back. And the master was amazingly gracious, forgives him everything, this huge sum, and he's going on his way. Then the servant sees this other guy who owes him some money, and a very small amount in comparison. The guy says, "Please let me off." He says the same words that the original servant said to the master, and this servant says, "No way, you're going to the jail if you don't pay me back." And of course people found out about this, told the master, the master called back the servant in, and says, "Okay, given that this is your attitude, I'm sending you to prison until you should pay it back."
It says this at the end here, the last verses. Let me read this to you. In verses 32-35 it says, "Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me, and should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant"—I hope you see where this is going in terms of God's relationship to us—"as I've had mercy on you?'" And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt."
So also, this is Jesus speaking. Get this. This is very sobering. Verse 35, "So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." Wow. He'll turn you over to the jailers. He'll turn you over to the torturers until you forgive from the heart. That is a promise from the living God, that [is] what happens when we do not forgive others. Absolutely extraordinary.
I'm going to read another verse here in Colossians and talk about this a little bit more. Colossians 3:12-14. And we memorize—our ministry, Christian Union, we all together memorize this passage here because we think it's so important that we have this in our hearts and minds, and we'll recite it together from time to time—Colossians 3:12-14 says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another [and,] if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
So you see the same theme, in that again, again, that God's forgiven you. You better forgive other people. I goes together. We can't expect and want forgiveness from God if we're not willing to forgive other people. Doesn't matter what they've done, how bad it's been. And I've heard some stories of some incredibly bad things that have happened to people, and the way they forgive is absolutely beautiful and extraordinary. You may be familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom who was put in a concentration camp for helping Jews during World War II, and her sister and her dad died in the concentration camp. And yet afterwards, she forgave all the captors and she went around preaching on forgiveness. I mean, unbelievable. Forgave them all, even had one of the security guards who was with her and her sister Betsy, in the camp where she died come up, and personally asked for forgiveness. And the Lord gave her faith and strength to extend that forgiveness.
We have a God who gives us the strength, who helps us. If you ask Him for that power and strength, you have it and you can forgive. And forgiveness is a choice. It's something we choose to do. And the feelings come later on. You don't wait until you feel like forgiving, you forgive. And then, and even when the other person doesn't ask for forgiveness, this is something between you and God. You just tell God you release God, that you acknowledge ... I mean you release the person to God, you acknowledge the hurt and the pain that they caused you, and you choose not to hold it against them, or to expect anything from them. And then over time, God will heal your heart. He'll even give you a love for that person. It doesn't mean you necessarily trust them in the same way before, because you've got to be wise about these things, but you don't hold it against them.
And the benefit is for you. It benefits you more than anybody, because a lot of afflictions come on a person ... as Jesus promised, so His father will do to each of you if you do not forgive from the heart. And that does happen. Curses, problems, physical ailments ... all sorts of problems come on to people. I do personal ministry with healing and deliverance—casting out demons regularly—and that's always a big one.
Often a person has a physical problem, and other issues in their lives, and until they forgive, then, when they repent of that and they forgive, then I can eject the demon from them if there's one in there. A demon of unforgiveness and some ailment there. A lot of times, not always, but osteoarthritis is connected to unforgiveness. I'm not saying that every person who has osteoarthritis has a demon of unforgiveness, or that is connected to unforgiveness. I'm not saying that. But I am saying it's the first thing I look [for] when I'm ministering to someone and they want to see healing of that. I've seen God heal people of that, and a lot of other things, because once they repent of that and forgive, the bondage is broken. The demons can no longer stay, and they can be ejected from them.
So, this is real life. Everything we see in the Scriptures is true. It's a spiritual world that we deal with, and all these things are very, very real. It's quite possible that you have a lot of problems and difficulties in your life because of this. May the Lord give you strength that you would choose by faith to forgive. Take some time, get on your knees, ask the Lord to bring to mind every person that you need to forgive. Then just write down the list of names. 10 to 20 names, 30 names is normal for people. I've seen people with over a hundred or more. And then go one by one and forgive them.
Yeah. It'll take you a little while to do it, but you know what? Better that than carrying all these curses with you. That is what happens when we don't forgive. So, I encourage you to do that. I'll do that exercise from time to time myself. Even though I first did it, gosh, 25 years ago when Neil Anderson encouraged it in a lecture that he gave. But these things sneak up on you, and you forget, and you don't forgive, and you got to forgive if you're going to be a child of the living God.
So, that is a summation of this sixth sin of America — the taking of offense and the lack of forgiveness. When we forgive, when we refuse to take offense, blessings open up. There's unity, there's peace, and there's life. Unity among Christians isn't that you all believe the same thing. Unity among Christians is that you forgive each other, and bless each other, and love each other even when you have different views. And that's what's critical for there to be unity in the body of Christ. There's always an element, an increasing sense of unity when there's outpourings of the Spirit, and when there's revival in church history.
This series has been a series of six sins on what I believe are the greatest sins of America. The ones we looked at is Americans have no fear of God, with a pride of human achievement. Secondly, the sin of self-indulgence. We need to fast regularly. In the first century, they fasted Wednesdays and Fridays, and for longer times. They also had devotions morning and night. At least half an hour, maybe even up to 90 minutes if possible. This was normal, and normal life for much of the world right now, but not in the West. We are indulging in a million other distractions. Third sin is greed and the lack of giving at least 10% of our money away. Fourth is violation of the first commandment and having all these syncretistic things come into our lives that steal away our love, pure love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Fifth is what I call the social injustice of the sexual revolution—let it coming into our minds, what we view, and our actions do, to be a violation of the marriage bed,—and this sixth one is the taking of offence and lack of forgiveness. So our desire and our passion is that we would repent of all of our sins and we all have sins to repent of. I'm just the same as everybody else. We all are. But the Lord will forgive.
He forgives, forgives, he loves it. His grace is extraordinary. It's wonderful. It's inexhaustible. A lot of people have difficulty repenting because they just don't think they can be forgiven this much. That's a lie. It's also a sign of pride. But the Lord loves, loves, loves to forgive. That is His specialty, and s every time we come to Him, He will forgive you. So step in faith, get on your knees, repent and confess everything for Him. Repent on behalf of the whole United States, and may the Holy Spirit come on you. A lot of times when you do this—a person does this—you'll experience the Holy Spirit coming on you right there. You'll say, "Wow, what's happening?" It's the Spirit of the Lord coming on you, either through weeping or a welling up, or just a change in your countenance because He's meeting you.
It's a validation of Him saying "You're doing the right thing, and I love you, and I'm with you." And this happens, so may God have mercy on us during this pandemic, during this time of the coronavirus. It will pass, of course, these things always do pass. A lot of nations and people have experienced bad things and even if they don't repent, the Lord pulls back for awhile. So it's no sign that we have repented or whatever else once this gets pulled back. I don't think it's the Lord's intention to completely wipe out the nation or the earth, not at all.
That happens at the end of the book of Revelation, you see, but at least I do not think we are in those times or anywhere close to that in my view, but it's not a sign just because the Lord pulls back that we never needed to repent, or something like that. Not the case at all. Let's take this time [to] turn to Him, bless His holy name and say how great and beautiful. Thank you for watching this video. May the Lord bless you and strengthen you as you walk with Him, with your whole heart.