Are You Offended? (Part 3)

When we are offended, when we feel an injustice has been done to us, no matter how large or small, we feel emotional pain.  

It’s  not imaginary. The pain is real.

How will we rid ourselves of the pain? Usually our thinking goes along this line, “If I can get that other person to ‘pay’ for what they did to me, I will feel better.”

So we wait for the payment. And wait … and wait. 

And the pain deepens.

The longer there is no payment (whatever we decide that is), the deeper the pain.

The person who caused the pain may not even know it! Or, that individual might be intending to harm us and have no intention of offering “payment.”

Let’s say, though, they the transgressor is a good person who wants to make it up to you. How can they pay the debt? What kind of emotional currency is needed to erase the pain someone has caused?

An apology is a good start, but it cannot fully take away the pain. Here is the reality: If someone causes you emotional pain, they do not have enough to “pay you back” fully or erase that pain completely. Only God can heal us of our emotional pain.

So if we don’t want to live in emotional pain the rest of our lives, we have to allow God into the situation to heal us. The way we open the door for that to happen is through forgiveness.

When we make a decision to forgive and let go of the debt, God can begin the healing process.

If we don’t do this — we are stuck in pain to some degree — for the rest of our lives!

Here is a story Jesus told about how this works: 

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (490 times!) Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:21-27)

The king represents God in the story and the servant represents us, who owe an impossibly large debt. Ten thousand talents would be millions and millions of dollars today. One Bible commentator said that it probably was more than the national revenue of Israel at that time, so Jesus was stressing exactly how un-payable the debt was. 

Remember that the gap between the debt and the payment causes the injured person emotional pain. Does God feel emotional pain because of the sin and injustice we have committed against Him? Yes! We didn’t even know we had a debt to God, and most of us were not trying to make it right. We caused Him immense pain.

Even when we became aware of that debt, there was no way we could pay it because the gap is as big as the universe. Jesus said it was so large it was impossible to be repaid.

There would only be pain between us and God for all of eternity, EXCEPT that He forgave us our debt. Completely! He closed the gap, he took away the pain through Jesus bearing our sins and dying on the cross.

We are brought near by the blood of the cross. Now there is no more pain between us and God because of what was done by Christ. The un-payable debt has been paid and we get to go free, if we accept God’s payment for our sins. There is no greater news than that!

But Jesus didn’t stop there with His parable:

“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”  (Matthew 18:28-35)

Unbelievable as it may seem, Jesus goes on to tell about a person who has been graciously forgiven a crushing debt but was unwilling to forgive a tiny debt, in comparison, against his fellow man. 

Jesus has read our mail. That is what we do! We have been forgiven a crushing, un-payable debt against God Almighty, and yet we hold on to the debts that other people incur against us.

It’s sobering to note that the person who refused to forgive the debt also ended up in prison — being tortured. 

What is the answer? Even as God forgave us because of what Jesus did on the cross, so we must no longer look to the offending person to pay us back and heal our pain, but we must look to Jesus’ cross for the payment.

When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the sins of the whole world. His justice took care of my sins, but it also took care of the sins done against me by others.

That is the only payment that is enough.

When someone offends me or sins against me, the reason I can forgive 490 times, as Jesus said, is because they cannot pay the price for their indebtedness, but Jesus can! Jesus’ sacrifice covers 490 offenses committed by the same person each day. That’s why I am compelled to forgive; if I don’t, I am saying that His sacrifice wasn’t big enough to pay for that person’s sin.

If I don’t believe that Christ’s sacrifice covered their sin, then how can I believe it covers my sin either?

We have to stop trying to make people pay the debts they owe us spiritually and emotionally. They cannot do it.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to acknowledge when we offend others and try to make it right as best we can, but even if that happens, it really isn’t enough to cover another person’s emotional pain. Only God can do that, as we open to the door to forgiveness. 

God has made a way for us to go free. It’s called forgiveness. We release them from their debts to us because Jesus has paid it for them.

You can make a decision right now to start the healing process in your heart if there is offense there and emotional pain. Jesus said if you stand praying and if you have anything against anybody forgive them so that your heavenly Father can forgive you. (Mark 11:25-26)

Jesus forgave them and you can appropriate that forgiveness that covers EVERYTHING.

 

 

Are You Offended? (Part 2)

Forgiveness is that noble-sounding thing that we know we are supposed to do, but is so contrary to our human nature that we feel that it is impossible.

It’s helpful to find out what forgiveness is and is not before we dive further into it. There is a lot of baggage around the word and more than a few misconceptions.

WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT
Forgiveness is not minimizing the offense that was done against you, pushing it under the rug or saying it really didn’t hurt me. What the other person said or did was not OK.

It’s easier to understand this if we look at God’s forgiveness of our sins.  God didn’t decide one day that our offenses against Him really didn’t matter or didn’t offend Him after all. He was just going to forget about it and pretend it didn’t happen. If that was the case, Jesus would not have had to die.

There was real offense and it caused the death of God’s Son, and because of that, He can offer us forgiveness of our sins. He can cancel the debt that we owed him.

Secondly, forgiveness is not necessarily reconciling with the other person, although it’s absolutely true that you have to have forgiveness before there can be any reconciliation.

Again, we can look at God’s example for help to understand this. God has forgiven all sins in Christ — the sins of the whole world. But that is only one part of the equation. Each individual has to accept the forgiveness offered and be reconciled to God. It takes two parties for there to be reconciliation, but only one party for there to be forgiveness.

To sum up, there can be forgiveness without reconciliation (or a restoration of the relationship); but there is no such thing as reconciliation without forgiveness.

It only takes you to forgive.

What is forgiveness? It’s a gift we give as a choice to someone who doesn’t deserve it (in our opinion) to free them from any debt we feel they owe us. We are saying: the debt is forgiven. You don’t owe me anything anymore.

I can hear your flesh screaming at the injustice of that, but consider what the world would look like if more people practiced this … even more followers of Jesus Christ. What would happen if we actually did what Jesus us told us to do?

The relatives of nine people slain inside the Charleston, South Carolina, historic African American church were able to confront the accused gunman Dylann Roof Friday at his first court appearance, only a few days after the June 17, 2015, shooting. “One by one, those who chose to speak at a bond hearing did not turn to anger. Instead, while he remained impassive, they offered him forgiveness and said they were praying for his soul.

“‘I forgive you,’ Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. ‘You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.’

“’We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with welcome arms,’ said Felicia Sanders, her voice trembling. ‘Tywanza Sanders was my son. But Tywanza Sanders was my hero. …. May God have mercy on you.'”

“I forgive you; may God forgive you.” “Give your life to Christ, so you can change your ways.” “Hate won’t win.” These were comments made by relatives of the deceased. (excerpts taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e26Eysq22Yg)

The minister at the church the following Sunday service said: “Lot of folk expected us to break out in a riot. They just don’t know us. We are a people of faith.”

“I’ve never seen the multitude of victims as forgiving as this,” Naomi Broughton, major in the Charleston police force, said“But there was a lot of angry people. I was angry. I don’t know if I would have been as gracious as those family members were.” 

I don’t know if I would have been as gracious either — when someone shot my loved one in cold blood, totally unprovoked, simply because of the color of their skin?

These people followed what Jesus said to do and allowed love rather than hate to rule;  their forgiveness shocked the entire world. More than that, it totally put a stop to the enemy’s plans to bring about more racial violence and hate and strife. Instead, the churches in that region experienced unity and the love of Christ was magnified. That’s how offense is stopped and we escape the enemy’s trap.

EMOTIONAL PAIN
I hope none of us will ever have to forgive something so heinous as these people did. Maybe we should start with something smaller, like a spouse who spoke harsh words to us, or the person who cuts us off in traffic.

Even those seemingly small injustices cause us emotional pain, the feeling that we are owed something, that something has been taken away from us that was rightfully ours. That pain is real, just as real as when we throw out our back by picking up something too heavy for us.

What do we do when we have pain? We try to get rid of it! What we want to find out, then, is how to get rid of the emotional pain that comes from offense.

Next time: Dissecting offense to find the cure.

Are You Offended? (part 1)

This probably isn’t the most contentious time in American history, but it certainly is easy to be offended with everything that is happening in our world.

There is polarizing division, not only politically but racially, ethnically, between men and women, and in virtually all institutions of our society.

We live in a fallen world and we are all broken people who can cause offense, many times unintentionally. I’ve offended others without meaning to — I’ve actually have been pretty good at it. How about you?

We all get offended as well. It’s how we react when we feel as though our sense of justice has been violated, either toward us or someone we love. 

So what can we do? When we look at things on a large scale, it’s easy to feel hopeless because the issue is so widespread and seemingly out of control. The only people we can change is ourselves, so we are going to talk about what we can do on a personal level, the main place we have influence.

We can learn how to deal with offense, learn to be less offensive ourselves, and become apt to forgive and receive forgiveness in the midst of this chaos. Then we can pray that it spread to others.

WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT OFFENSES
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!” (Luke 17:1)

Jesus said that offenses will come your way. He did not say, however, that we had to be offended. Here is the flipside: Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165).

We get to decide if we are going to be offended or not.

The word “offense” that Jesus used is skandalon in the Greek, where we get the word “scandal” in English. Originally, the word meant a movable stick or trigger of a trap; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall.

Here’s the point Jesus was making: Offense is deadly if not dealt with correctly. It’s a trap! An offense comes to get you to stumble, to get you to fall, to capture you in the net of the hunter. And we know what the hunter does with his prey. He comes in for the kill.

So, if you don’t want to be caught in the trap of the evil one (and Jesus said offenses are unavoidable), then there has to be a way to deal with offense that is healthy and keeps us from falling.

ARE YOU OFFENDED?
You may have offense right now against a parent, another relative, a former friend, an employer, a co-worker, a pastor or a church, your ex-spouse — anybody you feel has done you wrong. You might even be offended with someone you don’t know personally but you don’t like what they stand for or the agenda they are trying to advance.

You can be offended at God! You can still go to church, but your life is poisoned, and your poison is leaking out in what you say and do. Even if you aren’t aware of it, other people are.

What is God’s way to deal with offense? (Warning: This is hard. You are not going to like it!)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

That’s Jesus again. Was He irrelevant? Did He really not understand what we are going through? 

This is the very first teaching Jesus gives on prayer. He says:  Pray for those who persecute you. That means to pray for someone who treats you cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs. How do we react to someone who treats us cruelly or unfairly? I know what we want to do. We want to treat them cruelly and unfairly back. But if we do, we become TRAPPED! We fall into the snare. We took the bait. Now we are easy pickings for the enemy.

That is the very great danger for our nation. So many people are offended, even Christians, that we are in a trap and are largely powerless.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for  those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 

Jesus is speaking to us again. He didn’t say start a riot, write a nasty blog, get some ugly rumors going  in retaliation.

Jesus said, “Here’s the plan, guys, to keep you out of the enemy’s trap for your life. Love, do good. bless and pray for.” It’s the exact opposite of what your enemy is doing and the exact opposite of what you feel like doing, but it’s the only thing that works.

What comes naturally — vengeance, retaliation, division — isn’t working. Maybe it’s time to take His advice.

WHAT IS MISSING IN OUR CULTURE TODAY?
Forgiveness of offense is almost unknown in our culture. It is the most difficult thing, and the most healing thing. The thing that is the most like God and the least like our fallen nature. What we cannot do in our human strength on our own.

C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian writer, said, “Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea … until they have something to forgive…”

Lewis made that remark in a radio address after World War II when there was so much hatred against Germany throughout Europe, especially as news was coming out about the concentration camps. In theory, forgiveness is a lovely idea. Doing it is entirely different.

It seems impossible, and yet some have done it.

Next time: How do we do this impossible thing called forgiveness?