Paul warns us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
The Greek word for ‘grieve’ is lupeo, which means pain or sorrow. What a dreadful thought, that we may cause pain or grief to the Holy Spirit!
The best book on this topic, as far as I know, is The Sensitivity of the Spirit by R.T. Kendall. He explains:
“The word ‘sensitivity’ has two meanings. In essence, one meaning is “the capacity of being easily hurt.” The other meaning is “the capacity of being aware of the needs and emotions of others.” The sensitivity of the Holy Spirit refers to both meanings. We may not think these qualities are not very attractive in his personality, but like it or not, the Holy Spirit is like a turtledove and flutters away where peace does not prevail. However, the Holy Spirit is equally sensitive to our feelings. He is a gentleman.”
RT Kendall says that grieving the Spirit refers to actions of ours that hinder the Spirit from being himself, from being what he could be in us. We only have to look at the context of the verse in Ephesians 4 to find what those actions are:
When we shout to or spouses or children, when we hold a grudge against our neighbor, when we tell crude jokes, when we make hasty decisions without consulting the Spirit—we are grieving the Holy Spirit.
Paul even goes further by saying that some of these things that grieve the Holy Spirit will actually cause a person to lose his inheritance.
When Jesus told the people that adultery was not only a physical action, but that even having lustful desires for someone is adultery of the heart, he was raising the bar for what means to be sexually pure in the eyes of God. Here Paul is saying that even these sexual sins must not even be named, that “it is shameful even to speak of these things” (Ephesians 5:12). He would probably have included in his list watching certain movies—if he were writing today!
Walking in intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit involves avoiding his departure. Just as we learn what kind of things our spouses or friends dislike and avoid doing them, we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and control both our tongues and our actions. Let’s adjust to Him and his ways. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.
Some time ago, I heard Bill Johnson teaching about the Holy Spirit as a dove. If a dove were to rest upon your shoulder, how would you walk so the dove would not flutter away?
I confess that it felt like a heavy burden on me as I became aware of the many ways I was (and still am) grieving the precious Holy Spirit. But I was then reminded of the grace of Jesus and the love of the Father, always there, unconditionally. They restore me to the perfect fellowship with the Spirit.
A healthy fear of grieving the Spirit should not lead you to being afraid to enjoy life to the full, to laugh uproariously with friends or to make common sense decisions. God is not unreasonable. His commands are never burdensome.
The Holy Spirit is a person—and a very sensitive one—so treat him as such. His first name is “Holy” because that’s what defines his personality. He will help you to walk in holiness and transform you into the image of Christ, so you will abound in power and bear fruit.
All he asks of you is that you’d be his friend.