In light of Independence day, I think it’s very fitting to talk about freedom, living free from offense. I mean offense as in to be offended. Webster’s dictionary defines the term offense like this; a) something that causes someone to be hurt, angry or upset b) something that is wrong or improper c) a criminal act. In other words, someone may have done something that caused you to feel some kind of way, regardless of whether they are actually wrong for it or not, and you are “offended.” I just want to point out that the “offense” has less to do with what the person did and more with how we choose to react or respond. John Bevere, in his book, “The Bait of Satan,” tells us that the term offense here actually means, a snare or a trap. He says that offense, is Satan’s way to trap the believer so that we are nursing our wounds rather than focusing on the will of God. What a great visual. I can imagine, myself, like that wolf with its paw caught in this trap, staring at a gaping wound, wondering how in the world it got itself into this mess. How will I get out of this mess…and then adrenaline wears off and the pain sets in. Indeed, I would be able to think of not much else. As, I write about this topic, I find that I am dealing with an offense right now. Having said that, let’s discuss why we get offended in the first place and then, how we get out of the snare.
The simple answer is…we get offended because we are human. Sometimes we have been hurt and the old wounds seem to be scabs that new people pick by accident. Sometimes people truly have character flaws that just so happen to irk your nerves. I laughed when I read this scripture in Luke chapter 17, verses 1-5. The disciples of Christ have a peculiar response to Jesus’ mandate to forgive offense. In fact, He tells them that every time someone offends them and repents they are to forgive.
3 “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
After the disciples hear this message they cry out. “Give us more faith!” Am I the only one that finds this hilarious? These are the same men who have seen water turned into wine, fish and loaves multiple by the thousands, the cripple made to walk upright, natural disaster and demons bow at the command of Christ. This is the same man who asked them to forsake the comforts of the world, to leave their wallets and live off the offering of the people they were to minister to as they traveled about…this is the same man who had given them authority to heal the sick. But, when he tells them to forgive an offense, it seems like an insurmountable task. “Give us more faith,” they reply.
How do we deal with an offense? The answer is in that scripture as well. According to Luke 17: 3, we are to rebuke. If a repentance, or turning from the sin, occurs then we are to forgive. Yep. This is easier said than done. What I’ve noticed about myself and other people who tend to get offended from time to time is that we are somewhat sensitive by nature. All that sensitivity serves as an awesome guide when it comes to being compassionate toward people who need a touch by a true and living Savior or being in tune with what Holy Spirit is doing in the church, the body of believers. Can you imagine, and it’s bound to happen, when one of those people who you poured your life into helping, is discontent with you. They decide to purse their lips together to speak negatively about you! Come on…that can be offensive. Perhaps they did something they thought was funny but, it reminded you of a time that your older sibling bullied you as a child. All these raw emotions begin to resurface and you revert to the same reaction you had when you were in a much more helpless state.
Once we realize what’s happening, we have an obligation to our brother or sister to rebuke, to reprimand or express disapproval of, the sin. I actually hate confrontation. It can be awkward. Imagine someone younger rebuking someone older, like a parent or teacher. What if the person that you need to rebuke is sort of in denial about their behavior or if they are very sensitive as well. These waters can get tricky to navigate so, my natural reaction is to avoid this option. With this latest incident, I tried to convince myself that what I was feeling was not a big deal and I would get over it in time. That is not a scriptural reaction number one and, number two, I realized that I was harboring a bad attitude toward the person who had offended me. After speaking with a more seasoned believer, she helped me to understand that the person who offended me needs to hear the rebuke because they may not be aware of how their behavior is being received by others. By bring it to their attention, it may improve their other relationships too. Coming to grips with that truth makes the idea of rebuke a little more doable for me. I also needed to do this because I was harboring a resentment. I would always advocate for praying for the person before you speak to them. Something about prayer for those you are at odds with that is so amazing is that it opens our hearts to what God wants to directly say to us about that person who did us wrong. We begin to see them through God’s eyes. We begin to see ourselves more clearly as well. We look a little less like victims and a little more victorious as it is revealed to us what to say to that person when the opportunity for discussion arises.
Now about that forgiveness part. If they repent, then I am to forgive. What does forgiveness entail? The Family Life website does a beautiful job of describing what forgiveness is. It says, “Forgiveness means letting go of your right to punish another and choosing through the power of God’s love to hold onto the other person rather than his or her offense.” It goes on to say that forgiveness requires sacrifice, trust that God is up to good and a decision to grow. It’s a decision. It’s a decision that the disciple quickly pointed out for us that is going to require much faith to trust God in the process. By the way, Jesus responds, if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. I hope this blog entry and reference material is that mustard seed of faith which gives you strength to navigate the process of getting free offense.
“The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere