I will try to keep this as short as possible, but I hope you take the time to read all the way through and give me your feedback.
November and December is such a special time each year. Thanksgiving, Christmas, family time, Christmas Experiences (Services) at church and all the many other reasons that makes the season special. I love the spirit of the season.
However, there is also a dark side of the season. As we have stated each year and we read more and more about each year, people struggle with depression at an alarming rate and suicide numbers are equal to or more than the rest of the year January-October combined! There are many reasons for this, one being the loneliness that people feel because of the absence of a loved one and the isolation that the season can bring to those who don’t have family and friends to share the love of the season with. Financial burdens are also a part of the realization in one’s life this time of year. I don’t want to address those things in this post though, I want to write about a more widespread epidemic that is absolutely paralyzing people, dividing homes, causing division in marriages, churches and relationships abroad. The issue that I see becoming more and more of a hinderance to even a true witness of Jesus in our lives is the issue of OFFENSE.
We get offended about everything! A post we read, a statement someone says, an expectation that we had the went unmet, you name it, it is becoming more and more of a problem and it must be addressed or this issue in itself can be the root of all the seasonal pressures that I stated above.
No longer can we agree to disagree on a subject matter. No longer can we agree to disagree on a theological opinion. If we can’t agree, we just simply remove those people from our lives that dont think like we do, believe like we do, like everything we like, and it is paralyzing and it is also, in my opinion, very immature.
Offense will come. Jesus told us that Himself in Luke that it is impossible that no offenses should come. Meaning that offense will come, opportunities to be offended will arise, it will happen! So knowing this truth, we need to safeguard ourselves on how we deal with it when it does come. The enemy would love to divide us, get us frustrated and unforgiving towards people, get us angry and upset all the time, but the interesting thing about it is that when we do get offended, most times I know in my own life, it is because of my own pride and ego. I am choosing the offense over the opportunity. I am choosing to be offended instead of humbling myself to have an understanding or even be enlightened to a different perspective than my own.
If we are wanting to be offended, and it appears many of us live our entire lives this way, you wont have to wait long before the opportunity to do so will come knocking.
We get offended at our co workers, our bosses, our friends, our spouses, our kids, our church family, our classmates, our family, the person in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, the drive through person that doesn’t give me the exact attention I think I deserve, the teacher that doesn’t highlight my kid on the student of the week board every single week, the coaches that don’t recognize my talents and abilities, the pastors who preach us truth that we can’t receive because we cant handle truth, the person that didn’t open the door for us when we were walking into the building, and the list can go on and on.
So what? What can we do? First of all, we can recognize that we have an offended spirit. We should be conscience of it because it is a weak area of our spiritual lives that the enemy will capitalize on to get us alienated and disconnected from people. Secondly, we pray and ask for understanding and strength in the area of my offense. Then, we have actual conversations with those whom feel offended by or hurt because that is what Christ-followers should do anyway!
The reason I see this as a paralyzing predicament for most is because I have known people to leave a church family just because they were offended about something that could have had peaceful resolve had conversations been had. It is unbelievable for me to look back at all the people that have chosen to leave the church I get to pastor because of offense and unresolved bitter emotions. We seem to always be looking for the wrong in people instead of the right in people. We always seem to be looking out for our best interest and our egos instead of humbling ourselves to the reality that we don’t know every detail or every situation with every person. Most times there is a “why” behind the “what”.
I remember one time a family in our church invited us along with the entire staff over to their home for a Christmas party. This was the first time that my wife and I and most of our staff had ever been to these people’s home. It was a nice evening, all were having fun, then came time for the food to be served, and as you would expect, the host would ask their pastor to pray over the food as that is what you do when your pastor is in your home for the first time, right? I was preparing to pray and the host asked our student pastor to pray instead of me. The student pastor looked at me in surprise, as well as the rest of the staff, as it was a bit awkward. I didn’t dwell on it as those people were always offended about something as I learned throughout my time trying to lead them, I just made the decision to overlook it and pretend it was no big deal. Which really, it wasn’t. It was just a slap of dishonor by the host to me because the host themselves were offended about something with me. It wasn’t my issue or problem, I just chose to overlook it and never said a word about it until now. Those people have since left our church because they found every reason to be offended about something all the time and it really does break my heart because I can’t imagine living that way. We all can slide into that if we aren’t careful. Do as I did, Let it go. Move on. Forgive, pray and carry on.
‘Tis the season for the greatest time of the year, but also for increased opportunities to be offended and hurt.
Let’s choose healing and hope. Let’s choose understanding over agreement. Let’s choose to be a victor and not a victim. Let’s choose to resolve conflict in a timely manner. Let’s choose to look at people with compassion and sympathy, not as egotistical and rude. If we all do our part, the world could be a much better place and more joy and life could be experienced by all.
Paul said in Romans 12:18 NKJV; If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Your life does depend on you. Your peace may depend on your attitude and actions towards others and you too could bring peace and joy to others if we would just take ownership of our own shortcomings in the area of having an offended spirit!
We will be revisiting this subject in a teaching series soon at Action Church. Stay tuned.