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?