J. Lynn Thomas
3 Smart Things to Do When You're Offended
Updated: Aug 7, 2020
It's not easy to stay out of offense these days. And so easy to take the bait and go around and around in the Good Guy/Bad Cycle -- who's good, who's bad, who's right, who's wrong?... Boy! What a challenge the Year of 20/20 Vision as brought us! But as Christians, that is exactly what we're called to do. So, how do we keep our "eyes" on Jesus when our world looks more like a smached sleeve of Ritz crackers ready to use in our summer squash casserole?
Stumbling on the Promises.
Everyone has free will and the right to voice an opinion. And in our country, our First Amendment right protects that privilege. But spend an hour out on a social media site these days and be prepared for mudslinging and eyeball scratching the likes of which you haven't seen since the eighth grade.
Offense in the New Testament is the Greek word skandalon, as defined in Strong's Concordance (4625) as "a stick for bait (of a trap), generally a snare, a stumbling block, an offense."
Here in Richmond, Virginia, the infamous Civil War Capital of the Confederacy, there has been nothing short of mayhem in the streets, with shops vandalized, historical monuments ripped off their posts, and irratic gunfire blasting into the atmosphere evening for months.
I visited my pastor in tears, sharing my fears of the racial unrest in this battle of culture vs. Kingdom. From my vantage point I could only see the deception of those following the path of destruction in the name of justice. A people offended, marauding through the streets, looking for someone to pay for sins of the past. The response of the culture? Vengeance to the offender. The response of the Kingdom? Repentance by the offended. The wise pastor offered neither judgment nor opinion, only prayer, which went something like this.
"Lord, Lynn is your servant and she's been seeking your Face and heart on the troubling events of this season in our city and our state. But Lord, she's been stumbling..."
Stumbling. That word caught me, when later that same day I came across this definition of offense... a stumbling block. That was it. I was offended. I thought what we were watching unfold in our streets was the offense of others, but with this word I realized that I, too, needed to repent for being offended. Offended and at the same time grieving over the seeds these men, women, and city leaders were sowing, not only into the church, but into their own lives. For surely whatever a man sows he will reap. And one cannot sow chaos and expect to reap peace. Nor can one sow lawlessness and expect to reap any sort law that legislates justice. A demand which, in fact, the "law" already provides.
My prayer turned from offense to mourning. A prayer of mercy for those who still carried the grievances of their ancestors. Unable to see past sins forgiven. Like the orphan cry of the fatherless these voices in the streets carried the battle cry of the Black Lives Matter mantra that resonated in their hearts and minds. Unable to accept that even that phrase had been stolen from them by those who would destroy all they longed for in their lives -- family, roots, respect, a voice, and freedom to worship their God.
Does the Bible Allow Us to be Offended?
Several years ago one of my favorite ministers, Billye Brim, told how she became convicted of holding onto offenses caused by her husband's insensitivity to her cooking. He lamented that no one made homemade vegetable soup like his mother, and although Billye was a great cook and prepared a homemade meal for her family every evening after working a fulltime job as editor for Kenneth E. Hagin, her husband seemed unappreciative and it was causing her to sulk.
The Lord convicted her of hard feelings toward her husband and instructed her to post a copy of I Corinthians 13 inside her kitchen cupboard. Each time her husband said something that hurt her feelings she would open that cabinet door and repeat the scripture, "Love is patient, love is kind..." One day she read the scripture and the 5th verse jumped out at her:
5 (Love) It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. I Corinthians 13:5 (Classic Amplified)
Not touchy or fretful or resentful;...it pays no attention to a suffered wrong. What? How could that be right? And how might that apply to our numerous encounters on social media? "Touchy." "Fretful." "Resentful." What's the answer? Pay no attention to a suffered wrong. It doesn't say what happened wasn't wrong. In fact, it goes on to define it as evil. But our response is to pay no attention to it. To not allow ourselves to be touchy or fretful or resentful. even when it is an evil, a suffered wrong.
Further, if you meditate on that verse, you'll realize that the Lord holds the offended responsible for the offense, not the offender. Forgiveness and release of offense are squarely placed on the shoulders of the person offended. The victim of sin holds the key to his own release. Forgiveness.
Don't I Have a Right to be Offended?
Yes, but keep in mind if you "take the bait..." you've just become a slave and your enemy is now your master.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, communication pathologist, cognitive neuroscientist and Christian author shares research that unforgiveness causes a connection to form between victim and perpetrator, causing them to become "entangled". She calls it the Law of Entanglement or the Law of Relationship. She says quantum physics proves that no matter how much time and distance exists between them, as long as there is unforgiveness the offended person remains tied to the offender. In other words, they remain the victim of the offender. The only way to cut the tie is to forgive the person and release them from all charge. A recent blog is here, discussing the best way to interact with people with differences of opinion.
Allowing God, Himself to take up the charge is the Kingdom response of the believer. He is the Avenger, the Advocate for Justice, and the Enforcer of penalty for those who refuse to repent. As long as you remain in the good guy/bad guy circle, you will continue to be battered and bruised by the memory of the abuse, over and over and over again. It will actually damage your brain, as your brain can't tell the difference between the memory and the actual event.
Whoa! or Rather, Woe!
So, Jesus warned about becoming offended. But He also warned about causing others to "stumble", take the bait, and become offended. This may be the reason the Word of God also warns that leaders, teachers, and those in authority will be held to a higher standard for how they disseminate information. The news media should heed a healthy caution to this scripture because it is a "whosoever" promise. A law of the universe. It does not apply to believers only.
6 “But 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. 7 Woe to the world because of[a]offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Matthew 18:7)
Therefore, I believe the two most dangerous sins in the Bible just may be:
Offense, which enslaves the victim to the perpetrator, and if not interrupted, will eventually come full circle and cause the offended to become a perpetrator
Strife, which entangles a number of people together, and which the Bible cautions is the root of "...confusion and EVERY evil work."
So... Was Jesus Enough?
Some may be old enough to remember Green Stamps. They were a promotion given by merchants and collected by customers, who "saved" them in little booklets until they had enough to "redeem" them for an item shown in a catalog of home goods. The first time a Baptist friend asked me if I was "saved" I thought of Green Stamps and the wholesaling of Jesus had little appeal. It was later in life I had true revelation on what exactly Jesus "saved" us from and how, as "Redeemer" He rescued me from punishment due for my own sin, the sins of the fathers, and the sin of mankind, nailing it to the cross, and exchanging my guilt for His righteousness. The Bible calls this "justification." Some say, "Just As If I Never Did It." To go back and dig up my past or yours or the sins of our ancestors who had given their lives to Jesus would be an afront to the Blood of Jesus. But isn't that what we are asking God to do when we want to hold on to offense?
3 Things to Do to Stay Out of Offense
Forgive sin. It's the only thing that frees you from entanglement. It's not about excusing sin. It is an act of will to forgive and release the person from all charge. Jesus instructs us in The Lord's Prayer, "... forgive us our trespasses as WE forgive those who trespass against us.
Cover the offender with the Blood of Jesus, so that the offender is free from condemnation and able to "hear" God and respond in repentance.
Call the heart of the offender to God. You are not required to "feel" a release of the person you have forgiven. It is a legal act. But you may certainly want to ask God to give you feelings of love toward the person who has hurt you. Particularly if you will need to deal with the cause of their actions for an extended time.
So, the next time you feel yourself becoming, "touchy, or fretful" over the arguments of current affairs, slow down, rein in your emotions, and respond with these three things. And be sure and use the same caution as you "share" information which may inflame or incite others. Here's a good guideline:
8 For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].
So how should we respond when the climate is hot with division and someone is in your face ready to give you the latest reason why you need to be offended. Dangling the bait -- right under your nose! Well, take another lesson from our friend Billye Brim. Her son, Chip, says if ever he is ready to share a word or opinion about someone she will quickly stop him and say, "Son, is what you are about to tell me going to glorify God?" Now, that's a surefire way to shut down a conversation.
In conclusion: Don't take the bait.
How then shall we pray? Here's one to jumpstart your heart:
As an act of my will I choose to forgive ______ for _______. From this day forward I hold no charge against _____ and I cover his/her sin with the Blood of Jesus, who exchanged their unrighteousness for His righteousness. I can say with conviction, "...though their sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." Now, I ask you Father, to draw their heart to You, so that they might know you and the great Love you have for them. That they learn how head-over-heels in love you are with them and how you long to walk with them and in them and redeem their life, so they may enjoy the fullness of their destiny in the larger story you have written about them. I ask you also, Father, to soften my heart toward them, and pierce my heart with feelings of love and forgiveness for _____. Heal the trauma and distress their actions have caused me and give me grace to release them once and for all. In Jesus' name I pray.