Sunday, November 1, 2015

To the Offended All Things are Offense-able: Learning to Live Unoffended

A few weeks back, deep out of my spirit I heard the phrase, “To the offended all things are offense-able.”  I knew God was speaking and had something to say on the matter of being offended.  

The word offend means “to irritate, annoy, or anger; cause to feel upset; cause resentful displeasure in.”  Therefore, one who is “offended” is irritated, annoyed, angered, easily upset, and is resentfully displeased.  And, something that is “offense-able” is irritating, annoying, angering, upsetting, and resentfully displeasing.  All of that sounds. . . well, to be quite blunt, offensive!  

It seems that everywhere one turns the cries of the offended resound.  At the root of virtually every “war” - be it family wars, culture wars, worship wars, political wars, or even international or ideological wars - the issue is almost always, if not always, offense.  From the ridiculous, “Susie didn’t call Joey on his birthday,” to the sublime, “it is not real worship if not ________ (at the risk of offending someone, I will let you fill in the blank!)” reasons to be offended abound.  

A woman who writes a blog called, “Living in His Grace,” writes, “Basically, we become offended most often by unmet expectations and when something does not fit within our thinking of what is “normal” or fit within our worldview.”

Jesus wrote, “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:6) when answering the disciples of John the Baptist when they came asking if He was indeed the Son of God.  You see, things were not turning out according to their expectations of what would happen when the Messiah showed up.  In fact, John the Baptist was in prison and about to be beheaded.  Into that context, Jesus says… “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”  That is a call to live unoffendable! 

In 2 Corinthians 6:2-10, the Apostle Paul writes, 
Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— 3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; 9 as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.

Notice that Paul does not talk about being offended (even through much that typically causes great offense), he speaks of “giving no cause for offense in anything.” Paul had crossed over in his maturity to the place of being more concerned about hindering the advancement of the Gospel than in being offended over the way people were treating him.  

If Jesus or Paul had become offended because of the offensive ways they were treated, their purpose would have fallen prey to Satan’s schemes.  When we become offended, we cut ourselves off from the grace that is available to live victoriously, even joyfully, in the face of great trials, tribulations, and a multitude of reasons to be “irritated, annoyed, angered, easily upset, and resentfully displeased” - offended!  
In Proverbs 18:19 we read, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”  This is a critical word of wisdom to understand the power of offense to divide even the closest of relations.  It is also crucial for us to understand the need to guard our own heart from being offended and from causing offense.  Both are absolutely necessary!  

One of the key problems with offense or being offended is that once offense comes it becomes increasingly difficult to break out of the cycle of offense.  Once offended everything is seen through the lens of offense.  You may even begin to imagine things being said or done to you that are not real, yet the offended heart perceives it as real as a brick wall.  A secondary problem is that for the one through whom the offense came, whether intentional or not, the journey of winning back the relationship of the offended is incredibly difficult - even impossible - apart from the amazing grace of the Lord. 

Another key problem with offense or being offended is that once offense is taken up it quickly progresses into a “root of bitterness.”  Hebrews 12:4-5 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”  

Bitterness obstructs the pathway to God’s grace, causes trouble, steals joy, makes one hardened and brittle, eats away at the soul and defiles many.  Bitterness is a killer that is sown through seeds of offense. 

Here are a few simple practices to help us all break the cycle of offense.  If it is true, and I do believe based on Scripture and experience, that “to the offended all things are offense-able” then we must find ways to break out of the cycles of being offended.  

  1. Forgive quickly when offenses come.  Forgive, not just in word, but in heart.  This is the best preventative key to keep from living offended.  
  2. Intentionally operate in the opposite spirit of the “offense” that came your way.  Make this practical!  If you were cursed, speak blessings.  If you were dishonored, honor.  Avoid self-defense and give room for God to work, remember He is your vindicator! 
  3. Ask Holy Spirit to reveal if there is a root of offense within your soul that needs to be uprooted.  This is crucially important if you find yourself being easily offended (upset, irritated, frustrated, angered) over even the smallest of things. Also, if you find yourself offended by something that you know does not match the heart of the person that you are tempted to be offended with. . . check to see if there is a lingering issue that needs to be uprooted. 
  4. Repent, ask and receive God’s forgiveness, then by His grace move forward in a new way refusing to live offended for even one more minute.  Be brutally honest with yourself and with God over the reality of being offended…. It is a time waster, relationships buster, and a killer! 
  5. Be reconciled.  Scripture says that we are to live at peace with all men as far as it is possible with us.  Jesus has given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5), reconciling God to man and man to man.  Pursue reconciliation and know that you are only responsible for doing your part and trusting God to work in the heart of the others involves. 
In closing, I  will leave us with the words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans that provide keys of wisdom to live unoffendable in an offensive age.  
Romans 12:14-21  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but [n]associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but [p]leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Father, I pray that we may all grow in grace to live unoffendable, to deal with the offenses of the past that cause us to be easily offended, and to be instruments of reconciliation by Your love in every arena of life that will break the power of the enemy who always seeks to trap us in the snares of offense that steal, kill, and destroy.  Lord, grant that we might grow in maturity to not only live unoffendable but to live free of giving reason for offense to others that the power of Your Gospel may go forth unhindered in Jesus’ mighty name.  Amen.  

©2015 Jacquie Tyre