There was a particular point in the book that really struck me as an issue. It talked about the issue of offense, and how people who are offended are often guilty of what the book describes as evil reports. An evil report isn't necessarily true or untrue - just as false gossip would qualify as an evil report, so would a completely factual conversation if it would paint someone in a negative light to another. Get that, even if it's true, that's still an evil report. I find that highly convicting, and I do not negate the truth. It takes me back to the very first verse I ever memorized as a Christian (out of a a "oh you need to know this" revelation) and one I still struggle with walking out to this day. It also happens to be the memory verse for my group this month.
"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth except what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearer." Ephesians 4:29 NKJV (Ouch.)
OK, so to be clear, even as a girl who processes outwardly, I GET that this is truth! BUT (and you knew a but was coming, right?) where I differ with the author is in this statement here:
"Truly, if someone becomes upset with another and offended, it becomes his or her sin. God has commanded us to love our neighbors, to love our enemies, to submit one to another. There is no place for becoming offended. Offenses separate us from God."
Whoa, whoa, whoa - STOP the presses. I have a real problem with this here. And the scripture that the author goes on to make his point with is taken out of context and misused to back up his point. Here is his reference:
"Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:7, emphasis added).
Let's look at the passage he references IN CONTEXT:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" Matthew 18:6-7
The "woe" of the passage here is issued to the offendER, NOT the one who has been offended. And it's important to remember that! Now when I mentioned my issue with this passage to one of the ladies in my group, I gave her the disclaimer, and I will to you as well, I recognize that this is coming from someone who finds herself, well, easily offended. The "justice minded, don't make anyone feel less than valued, people matter most" person that I am gets offended easily by the actions of others. I confess it. BUT that fact about me doesn't change the reality that an offense is defined by the hurt of the person on the receiving end, not by the intention of the one who caused the offense.
"You shouldn't be offended, that's not... what I was trying to say... what I meant... that big a deal." Have you ever been on the receiving ends of those kind of comments? Did they magically make your hurt disappear? Did it make it all better? Probably not, because intentional or not, an offense was given. And if it's not taken back, the offender has the power to walk away, but the offended is stuck walking around with it. Folks like me (and I know I am not the only one) can find themselves stuck up under a heavy satchel full of hurts.
Recently, I found myself offended, so much so that it has changed my perception of another person. Unfortunately in the course of the offense it was pretty clear that only one of us wanted to even be in the conversation. There is no going back to discuss the matter - and that is indeed the way things are sometimes. I think that's why the bible tells us in Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."
Sometimes you can only do what you can do, you cannot force someone else into another level of relationship, or into a conversation, or into a course of action. But, and this is a BIG BUT, this is where your responsibility comes in with that offense you have been left carrying. You have not sinned in being offended (I don't care what the author says) but you have to make choices about what you do with that weight you have been handed. Carrying it around in an "offense satchel" on your back for the rest of your life is really not going to work for you.
I had a real life revelation of this yesterday. I've been holding onto the offense since it was given to me, purposely NOT trying to talk about it (letting the conviction of this book I'm reading sink in) but still feeling the weight of it.
Yesterday I sat down with my mom and we were just making small talk. My extended family (on every side and avenue actually) is broken - some places it's fractures, other places it's downright demolished and destroyed. There are a LOT of folks in my family walking around still carrying hurts and offenses. I asked my mom for an update on one family member in particular who only has two people in the family who are even willing to speak to her because of the truckloads of offenses she has doled out in spades over the years, but somehow sees herself as some sort of victim.
This same person has actual files she keeps on her own perceived offenses , and my mom told me a story about how in a very recent email she brought up a trip from more than two decades ago. She was talking about being carsick because my dad told her to sit in the backseat and then didn't drive the mountain curves slowly enough to keep her from getting sick. She didn't feel valued, and she still has an issue with a single car ride that happened more than twenty years ago. This is a tiny glimpse of an offense she has been holding onto.
Now I know my dad, and his strong personality, and he probably wasn't sensitive that day. Her offense probably had some merit - twenty years ago... but the fact that it's still an issue now, is a problem. And it's NOT my dad's problem. I look at this person and her files of offenses (she literally sends quotes of things in emails and the like) and I look at her life, the fact that very few people in the extended family will even interact with her, the depths of physical, emotional and mental illness that she suffers under, and I cannot help but see a very likely correlation. And I'm not going to lie, sitting across from my mother's desk, fondling my own offense in my "hand," it scared the HELL out of me!
A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones. Proverbs 14:30 AMP
RED ALERT!!! BEWARE!!! LOOK OUT!!!
So I disagree with what the author says, that being offended is the sin. And on another rabbit trail, I could tell you that I think this mentality is very dangerous ground to walk. It gives license to treat people however we want, and license our actions with supposed good intentions. I remember being brutally demeaned by a person in spiritual position of authority over me who then reached across the table and patted me on the hand quoting scripture as she said, "wounds of a friend, Diana, wounds of a friend." That is NOT right. People, Christians, especially those in places of spiritual authority, need to be hyper-sensitive to whether or not they are hurting or stumbling another. That same person stumbled another person in my own family so badly with that kind of spiritual mistreatment, that my loved one didn't just walk away from that church, she walked away from God. Spiritual authority has to be worn with great care, because it is NOT a position of power to be wielded, it is a HUGE eternal responsibility that needs to be worn as a great burden. When we are in positions of spiritual leadership, we have to go the extra mile (that's biblical, right?) to love and to serve and as the "hands and feet of Jesus" make people know they are loved and valued by God. No person is insignificant or replaceable in the eyes of God, and they should never be made to feel that way within the church. (Rabbit trail end.)
But back to the one who's stuck holding the offense. You have to make a decision now. That's where I have found myself, I have to make a decision now. The sin is not in being offended, but the sin is in holding onto the offense. The offense may change your perception, your relationship, even the decisions that you have to make, but you cannot allow it to change YOU. I cannot allow it to change ME.
When we lay aside all the bells and whistles of church life, and the Christian walk, Jesus Himself said everything you need to know is encapsulated into two simple instructions:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
Jesus Himself said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
As you stand there holding that offense in your hand, whether it's from last week or last year, or the last millennium, there is a choice to be made. Will you follow Christ?
If the answer is yes, then you can do only one thing with that stone, and that's to lay it down. Whether the principles of Matthew 18 will work out and you can resolve it between you and the offender or whether that is simply not an option, you have to lay the offense down, and you have to do it at the foot of the cross.
Why? Because we are called to...
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8
If you lay the offense down anywhere else, it will build something, a wall that separates or a wall that isolates. If you hold onto it, it will only weigh you down. But if you lay it at the cross, and then take a step back and look upon it in the shadow of the cross, you will realize that it cannot compare to the offenses that Christ has borne for you. Whatever it is that you are being called to overlook and forgive, it will never compare to what has been overlooked in you and forgiven of you. If you stand there, you will realize and/or remember why you are even capable of loving another enough to let go of the offense. It is quite simply those of us who take the time to remember just how much we have ourselves been forgiven that have the power and love to forgive.