Recently, in a conversation with a friend and mentor, He said something that has stirred in my heart ever since. I have meditated on this statement. I have wrestled with it, studied it, and thanked God for it. This statement, in that moment, helped me. It brought perspective and focus to so much that seemed to be out of focus. His statement?
“We don’t need to work harder at eliminating offense, we need to work harder at growing forgiveness.” (Thanks Pastor Ron)
This post is not really so much about offense as it is about forgiveness and reconciliation. I will, however, take a moment to dissect offenses in order to bring proper context to the afore mentioned quote.
In most cases, there are two parties in the trap of offense. The offended and the offender. Both are equally responsible for the offense. Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Notice he distinguishes “woes” to two groups of people…”the world” (the offended) and “that man” (the offender). The word “woe” here is used as a primary interjection and exclamation of grief. That means there is equal emphasis placed on the grief of both the offended and the offender. It is also important to note that the context in which Jesus is speaking is in regards to intentionally offending (especially a child) keeping them from His kingdom. I am clarifying here because many times people use this scripture to infer judgement on people who unintentionally offend someone because of their personality or some other misunderstanding. That is not the context of the scripture.
Let’s look at this from the beginning. Genesis, the book of beginnings, tells us that there were two responsible in the garden for the fall of mankind. The offender (the serpent – satan) and the offended (Adam). The offender came to skew the perceptions of the offended. He tempted Adam to see God as a taker rather than a giver…skewing His perception. Adam took the offense and the fruit and ate. When the Lord came to look for Adam (side note: God is all knowing…He already knew that Adam had eaten the fruit – yet He came looking for him anyway) he hid from God’s presence. Why? The offense had set in, now he was being controlled by the offense…he was filled with fear and shame so he hid. When God spoke to deal with the offense He did not just deal with the offender but with the offended as well. I am saying all of this to make it clear that there is a responsibility on both parties for the offense.
I think it is important to note that most of what the church is “offended” about today may not qualify as offense biblically speaking…it is a difference of opinion, a difference of gifting, a misunderstanding, or maybe a false perception but not offense. I am not saying that people do not allow themselves to become offended over such things – they do – unfortunately. So then what do we do?
This is why we do not need to work harder at eliminating offense…it is impossible to eliminate offense. As long as we occupy these fleshly bodies which are so sin prone we will be dealing with offending or being offended (this is not a license to be rude or intentionally try to offend others…that is wrong). The question is; how do we deal with it?
The answer is simple – we need to grow forgiveness! I am so glad that Jesus did not rehash my offenses with Him before He reconciled me! He didn’t come to make sure that I pay for my offense…He came to make sure my offense was paid for! He offered Himself as a ransom for my offense…He paid the price to reconcile me. He paid the price to reconcile you! He gave us the ultimate example of growing forgiveness in that He did not hold our sins against us – He laid down His life to remove our sins from us! WOW!
The reality is, I and everyone I know, is a work in progress. We don’t always get it right. We make mistakes – we offend – we become offended. There is really only one option in all these cases. Become like Jesus. Forgive! Sometimes easier said than done because our wounds are so deep but necessary nonetheless. Forgiving is the key to our forgiveness. To the degree that I am willing to forgive is to the degree that I in turn will be forgiven. Jesus taught us to pray,in Matthew 6:12; “…and forgive (present tense) us our sins, as we have forgiven (past tense) those who sin against us.”
I received an email the other day from a young man that really blessed me…let me share it with you. It read:
Hey Pastor Ryan I was in service tonight with John Bevere speaking on the bait of satan and while sitting there I was thinking of any offense that I am holding or anybody who has offended me. Your name came to my mind. I really cant think of any offense that I have towards you but I felt that I should tell you that I forgive you for anytime that you have offended me or my family. Im excited to see the things that the Lord has for you and your family. I greatly appreciate everything that you have done for me. You are such a blessing. God bless
What a great example! My heart was overwhelmed by this young man’s heart, obedience, and tenderness to the Lord. If we could all be a little more like this young man, who in that moment became a little more like Jesus, our lives would be so much better!
Let me leave you with this to ponder:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which [are] by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
I pray God blesses you! Ryan