A few months ago I began a journey with God that caused me to dig deep inside my heart, and correct what He has affectionately named, “your hidden sins.” I began wondering what God had to improve upon my life since I’ve lived “big sins” free for quite sometime now. I realized there was more to the list than the traditional drinking, smoking, cursing, and lusting that churches love to constantly address. God began taking a sledgehammer to the sins that people rarely enjoy dealing with. He pulled away what often blinds us from the sins that aren’t as obvious as a boldfaced lie, a blunt between the lips, or a raunchy virus infested computer screen. With precision He exposed insecurities, pride, impatience, lack of gentleness, and, what I’d like to touch on in this blog, OFFENSE.
He said to His disciples, "Offenses will certainly come…”
If there is one thing I have learned from life, it’s that this may be the truest statement in the whole Bible! Parents, siblings, friends, people on the street, drive-thru attendants, pastors, Facebook friends, spouses, church folk, Twitter followers, children, newscasters, YouTube commenters, the worship leader, coworkers … really anyone with a beating heart resting inside their ribcage can and will offend us. It’s almost as simple as drawing our next breathes. It can take the form of an odd look, or a poorly placed word in a well-intended sentence. It can be something that lies dormant in hearts, and suddenly springs forth in an issue as simple as where to place milk inside a refrigerator. However, no matter what form or from whom offenses may come we have two choices when it arises: to receive or reject it.
The hardest truth that conjoins itself to the issue of offense is that the fault of it lies not with the offender, but with the offended. It’s human nature to desire vindication from situations that cut us deeply. As soon as we find ourselves hurt by another we jump straight to questions like:
“What would make someone do such a thing” or “how could they hurt me like this?”
Yet, rarely do we ever veer towards thoughts like:
“What in my heart caused me to be hurt by this?” or “What insecurity am I not aware of that caused me to be rubbed the wrong way?”
The reason why we don’t ask these questions is because unintentionally we have been taught our whole lives that we are not responsible for our emotions. Life would seemingly reveal that hurt penetrates from the outside in, not that it’s produced from the inside out. While external forces do trigger the responses of our heart, it is our heart that chooses that response. The scriptural basis for this truth can be found in Proverbs 4:23:
“Guard your heart with all diligence, BECAUSE OUT OF IT FLOWS THE ISSUES OF LIFE.”
Whatever flows from our heart is in direct accordance with what we’ve guarded it from. If we find ourselves in a situation where offense streams out of our heart it is because we chose it to be so. If we cling to the “right” to resent another for their wrong doing we will be held responsible for our actions, not theirs. I wish that on the day I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ He’d pick-up a phone, ask an angel to drag everyone whose offended me into the court room, and invite me to sit on His right while we chastise my offenders … but that’s not what’s going to happen. I’ll stand there. Alone. Then I’ll give an account for my actions, and not the actions of others.
While it seems contrary to so many people’s reality, this principle is a clear Kingdom reality we should choose to live by. Our greatest example of it applied can be seen in the life of our Savior. If anyone has ever had a right to be offended it was Him, and yet we can see in scripture that; “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…” (1 Peter 2:23)
The truest reason people accept offense is because they have a desire to judge instead of trusting in The Judge. We want so badly to hold on to our opinion of how we were wronged, and cling to our right to feel what we feel towards someone. We like to tell ourselves that we would never hurt someone like we’ve been hurt, but it isn’t true! We will, in this life, inevitably hurt others. Which is why we are given scriptures like this…
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
You see, how we forgive is how we will be forgiven, and how we judge is how we will be judged. And because we are often guilty of the things we judge others of we should give the forgiveness we would want to be forgiven with. When I posted the first scripture of this blog you may have noticed I left out a very important portion of what Jesus said in Luke. The entire scripture reads, “Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!” He knows that judgment will come to the offender, but sadly if we choose to be offended we also will receive a measure of judgment. Which is why Jesus finished this teaching in Luke 17 with verse four. “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
It isn’t easy to live a life without offense. That’s probably why the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith in verse five of Luke 17. However, it is the most freeing life you could ever live. Proverbs 19:11 states, “it is his glory to overlook an offense.” But, how do you live a life without offense you might ask? I think there are two answers beautifully inscribed in 1 Corinthians 13 that outline the life without offense beautifully.
“Love keeps no record of wrong”
“Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, and endures all things.”
In order to live this life you need to keep no record of wrong. You must let go of what’s offended you in the past, and free yourself from hurt. Next you need to bear and endure the times that offenses come again. You need to fight the right to be hurt, to vindicate yourself, or judge your offenders. Finally, you have to hope and believe that God can change the heart of your offenders. You have to stand in faith that God will arrest their hearts, and correct the things in their life that bring offense. It takes time, but God wouldn’t have written this principle it if it wasn’t possible to live by.
I invite all who have read this into the liberty and freedom of life without offense!