December 7, 2014

Like Water Off A Duck's Back

I am trying to give up being offended and it has been a very difficult road for me. Allowing myself to always be offended is a mentality that says I am too important to be trifled with. It seems to scream that I consider myself too great a person to take an insult or to allow myself to be demeaned. At times I've take tremendous offense to being slighted and have demanded better treatment either through my behavior or actual words. At times I have been overly sensitive to being wronged and often retaliated verbally. This is not humble nor meek. Come to think of it, it isn't really that Christian either. 

Everyone has been offended by someone or something. Taking offense assumes you are important or have a self-worth. If we live by a code, something is bound to be an affront to us. If we live by any other code than God's we will probably always be offended. Why wouldn't we be offended under God's code? We'll, in truth, we will still get offended but the Bible tells us to bite it back and leave the issue of justice and righting the wrong up to God. We just let it roll and let God in His sovereignty and omniscience do His thing. He is the justifier and the perfecter of my faith. He is my strong tower and my defender. He will right all wrongs in the final tally. I needn't concern myself with it.

As for reacting poorly to perceived offenses? Reaction to these offenses are exactly that…reactionary. It is a matter of nature taking its normal course. Well, actually, it is a matter of sin allowed to unleash itself in our lives. Taking offense and retaliation is sin given up to itself. A sinner if left to their own decision-making process will always chose more sin. We therefore need to think as sinless as possible. What would God have us do? We must exalt Christ in our thoughts and actions in these moments of testiness. We have to be offended by our own proclivity to be offended, don’t we? 

Unfortunately, the sinful mind is generally wired to react, not think clearly. It is wired to allow emotion to pool in our brains and created a muddled emotive brain stew. In our sinful opinion, something morally reprehensible or vulgar should solicit a response. Someone has to pay! That's because…because...

Because why? Because we are better than all that? Listen to yourself here…especially if that’s how you really feel. You are better than that. Really?

“I deserve better.” “I deserved more.” “I, I, I”

Offense has nothing to do with the other person, it has to do with the offended. It has to do with you. It is the "I" in the sentence that you really need to make note of.

There will be times when someone says or does something that is totally inappropriate but this is usually the exception, not the rule. Does your reaction (or over-reaction) like having a fit about being offended really solve the problem or bring resolution? Does it make things worse? Most often it doesn’t help things and what would’ve been a injurious relationship fender bender becomes an deadly car wreck. bad we get offended then boils down to how we chose to respond to a perceived slight (see what I did there?).

Offense or being offended is a choice. It is a choice of how we chose to perceive statements or actions and how we respond to them. How we perceive them is directly affected by how we view ourselves and our mental state. Do we feel inferior? Is our self-esteem trodden on? Are we having a bad day? We really need to get over ourselves. Seriously, get over it.

Proverbs 19:11 ~ “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

The Bible says it shows good sense to overlook an offense. By choosing not to be offended it opens other possibilities up to us. We can learn for starters. We can resolves tense issues that would have otherwise ended in hostilities or conflict. By not reacting like an idiot we can more positively and more effectively influence the world around us. Conversely, when we lash out in a retaliatory posture, our positive influence over a situation or the lives of others is diminished to the point of being insignificant. What does this do to our evangelism? Me thinks it is detrimental.

Changing...meh. It isn’t going to be easy. No one said it would be. I wouldn’t be writing this article if it was easy because everyone would already be doing it because it would be effortless. So how is it done? First, we need to be fair estimators of value. How much to we value ourselves and how much do we value others? In an offense situation we are clearly valuing ourselves over others and not seeing the value in other people. We’re being selfish, aren't we? Our choice here is to stop and see the value in others over ourselves. Hard? Yes, but we are called to be selfless in the Christian life. Doing this should inevitably become second nature to the Christian. Taking offense is really an internal desire to change other people but stubbornly chose to remain the way we are. We chose to remain sinfully stubborn, duh. The truth is the only person you can really change is yourself. So does taking offense make any logical sense? Ehhhhh, nope.

Leviticus 19:18 ~ “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Jesus understood the value in other people and that is exactly why He came to die on the Cross to save those who would repent. He died for those that would offend Him. Spit on Him. Crucify Him. He did not retaliate. It is here we see that taking offense is a form of retaliation and to overlook an offense is godly. What is retaliation? It is a violent revengeful action towards other we perceived has wronged us. Better to be reviled and let God defend us than to act as judge and jury when it is not our place to do so. There is a high probability our judgment will be wrong. Even Jesus did not come to judge the world the first time, but to save it.

John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him”

We need to understand that according to God every person in the world has value to Him, and then look for it. We need to seek to understand a person’s perspective and find what is beneficial in it. Seek what is helpful instead of being focused on what you find offensive. When we look with the heart of God it will be amazing what we find.

1 Peter 2:23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

By trying to understand the offending person’s point of view we will need to hear them out. This requires a quieting or silencing internally and externally. This too is a godly trait. If we are honest, most of us will admit we are not active listeners like God, we’re actually spiritually deaf and horrible listeners most of the time.

1 John 5:14 ~ “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

We need to stop talking and actively listen to people. If we listen with the objective of actually hearing and understanding other people’s points of view, our perspective might change and that might remove the offense. We might find out that is wasn’t offense at all it was just an alternate point of view or even misunderstanding. Besides, when we listen our mouths are shut and we lessen the probability of saying something stupid that will only exacerbate the problem.

Be a brother or sister. Be a friend. Be a neighbor. Do not be an enemy. Have the heart of a loved-one or person that loves unconditionally. That means “no-strings-attached.” It’s amazing what you will forgive when it comes to your family as opposed to a stranger. Conversely, it is often surprising what we will forgive a stranger for but not our spouse. It is truly a paradox at times. In the Body of Christ there is no such thing as a stranger. We’re all family. When it comes to the non-believer we should start by not taking offense or possibly even forgiving a non-believer. Why? We may end up gaining a family member. Some of the best influences in my life have been beloved family members and beloved friends.

Finally, as it was just stated, it is better to forgive. Here we get at the heart of why taking offense is so dangerous. By taking offense…we’re not forgiving and to forgive is godlike.

Daniel 9:9 ~ “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him…”

Matthew 6:14-15 ~ “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Colossians 3:13 ~ “…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

A few other pieces of Biblical advice to not be offended today? First, don’t be offended by anything you can’t change. This is an issue of awareness. It is a matter of understanding that indignation is not action. Stop trying to justify being offended because we think we need to serve justice and right a wrong. God rights all wrongs. Secondly, stop looking for things to be offended by. If we look hard enough we can find a mistake in every action or word. Thirdly, realize people are people and because of this they are fallible and prone to error and sin. Just because you’ve been wronged doesn’t mean it was done to you intentionally.

The truth is that we will have our hands full as Christians just trying to preach the Gospel. We don’t need any more offense in our lives than need be. The Bible is clear about the Gospel, it is offensive to those that are perishing in their sins. We cannot remove that offensiveness without losing the whole purpose of the Gospel. Conversely, we need not add fuel to the fire by adding our own offense or allowing others to drag offense into our interactions with them. Better to just be offended, and let it roll off us like water of a ducks back. In other words, we need to ignore an insult or offense outright as if it had no effect on us. The only power it has over us is the power we allow it to have over us to affect our mood and attitude. If we just let it go, it will have little or no effect.

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