If you come to this little blog site to find a "warm and safe place in which to rest your soul" I welcome you today. It is always good to find a place that is comfortable and kind, a place where you feel known and cared about. This is the place!
But today I want us to consider something that isn't particularly warm or safe.
Feeling offended seems to be a common ailment in our society, our homes, our churches and unfortunately, in our own hearts.
Recently someone close to me said, "I was so offended when ..." I've heard it at church. I've read it in the newspaper. I see it in the news.
It usually starts with , "Can you believe he or she said that?" It goes on to explain why the feeling is justified.
How many times have I, myself, said those words, so quick to take offense? More than I want to count. And yet, I know better. I know I walk on dangerous ground when I hear, receive, and harbor resentment.
A person's wisdom yields patience, it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.
I want to be known as a wise person...no, I want to be a wise person and this verse tells me that patience is one of the crops yielded from a heart of wisdom.
In Matthew 24:10-12 Jesus says, as he is warning about signs of the end days, "Then shall many be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another, and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
When I read the words "betray", "hate", "abounding iniquity" and "love waxing cold" I want nothing to do with them. They sound like deadly venom to a soul, to a family, and to a body of believers.
So what are we to do?
Francis Frangipane has written extensively about this problem. When offended, he first tries to listen and consider what he's being told. What might be true about what is being said?
He writes, "Humility listens even to a harshly spoken word and without reacting, rescues the truth within the criticism. The result is that we discover an area we had not seen and instead of being offended, we become more Christlike."
We can get offended by more than just direct criticism. We can be offended by what someone tells us that someone else said. We can be offended by what someone says, even if it is not directed right at us. Sometimes we are offended by what people don't say! But our reaction can be the same.
First, pray. Then ask, "What can I learn from this?" We can use this as an opportunity to grow in love like Christ who, as He died, prayed, "Father forgive them."
The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:15 that we can go to the person and talk with them. Take a friend and gently explain how you feel. Sometimes the person will explain or apologize. Other times they will refuse to acknowledge that they have hurt you. Either way, you have done what is right.
What we are NOT to do, is to tell everyone we talk to how this person has hurt and offended us. We would do well to NOT rehearse what was said and why we have every right to be insulted.
We should also pray, asking God for the willingness to do the work that releases the person from the chains we have put them in...the binding requirement to pay for what they have done/said/thought..
I had two aunts who supposedly never talked for years after one said something hurtful about the other's husband. Think of it. Sisters who had a lifetime of no communication even though they lived close. They let unkind words move them into a stubborn stance that led to a lifetime of fences and walls. That's the danger, I think. One might have been right and the other wrong, but someone should have either apologized or forgiven before the years stretched into decades.
But I don't have to look back those many years to find examples of offense. I just need to look into the mirror and realize that it is hard to give things up that hurt me. It is easier to lay down in the softness of feeling like I am right, justified in my lack of forgiveness. But that softness soon turns to spikes as we realize the true consequences for staying "offended."
- loss of relationship with that person
- lack of honesty with God
- negative outlook
- lack of thankfulness
- a continuing of my brokenness
- a broken unity
- letting sin get a foothold
- losing our capacity to love
- unforgiveness given free reign
I encourage us all to examine our hearts and ask God to help us choose to stop taking offense. If there is a specific situation, He will help us resolve it quickly and quietly, so we can bring honor to him and be able to move on in freedom.