I can’t imagine that anyone ever really intends to hurt God. Atheists might rail against a God whom they do not believe exists. I am sure that if they knew Him, they would revise their opinions. Even in our moments of deep pain when we question God, our intention is not to hurt Him so much as it is to make sense of our lives.
Some people, of course, think that it is preposterous to talk about hurting God. How could puny human creatures hurt the creator of the universe?
And yet we can hurt God. Unless you try to dilute some very explicit statements in scripture, the possibility of hurting God is a real risk.
And we do hurt God. Probably more often than we think.
In Ephesians 4.29-30 Paul challenges us with these words:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
As a preacher, I have often quoted verse 29. And I have often quoted verse 30. The former, I have used as a basis to encourage and challenge Christians to speak in a way that encourages and builds up their brothers and sisters. The latter, as a warning against upsetting the Holy Spirit.
What only struck me very recently is that both verses are intimately connected. The and at the beginning of verse 30 is the giveaway. It connects speaking in a way that builds up others with preserving the health of our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
I probably knew intuitively that our speech impacted on our relationship with the Spirit. But reading these verses again just recently proved to be somewhat of a light bulb moment: how I speak to you affects my relationship with Him.
The question then arises “What happens when the Holy Spirit is grieved?” That is a hard question to answer. Why? Because, as far as I am aware the scriptures, certainly the New Testament scriptures, do not explicitly indicate what happens when the Spirit is grieved. Genesis 6.6 (KJV) and Hebrews 3.10 and 3.17 (both KJV) mention God being grieved. The word used in Hebrews, however, has a much stronger connotation than being upset or even offended. Anger is more than likely its meaning.
What is clear is that the way we speak to and about others can put distance in our relationship with the Holy Spirit or preserve intimacy with Him. (Notice too that intimacy with the Spirit is what we start out with and we can become distant. For many, the default in our relationship with the Spirit is distance and intimacy is something to be attained.)
Making that connection between verses 29 and 30 means I cannot neatly file verse 29 away under some heading like “Healthy relationships within the body of Christ” and verse 30 under something akin to “How to walk in the Spirit”, because, fact is, they both belong together.
We have closeness with the Spirit, and that closeness is preserved and strengthened by the words we use in our interactions with one another.
Of course we don’t mean to hurt God. Ephesians 4.29-30 shows us how we can avoid doing just that.
I’ll leave you with The Message rendering of those crucial verses:
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. 30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.