“How wonderful it is, how pleasant,
when brothers live together in harmony.”
We cannot control others’ actions, but we can control our own. Most of us have heard the example of the lady who is having a rough day and is snapping at the people around her, but as soon as the phone rings she answers with a sweet tone. I’m sure this has happened to most of us, and it goes to show that we can control our actions and words if we have sufficient motivation.
When I hear the word offended, I also hear the word choice. In my mind, to be offended is a choice, whether the offence is great or small, perceived or justified (meaning someone did something to intentionally hurt you). Somehow, most of us, without realizing it, expect more from our spouse, family, friends and church leaders than we expect from ourselves. As Christian women, taking offences seems to be a justifiable sin. Yes, I just called it a sin, and here’s why.
When you take in an offence, you are by default choosing unforgiveness, destroying unity, and hindering yourself from service. As I was going through a bible study this past summer about community, I started realizing how taking offences totally works against everything God wants for his children. Throughout the word we find that we are responsible to each other for; encouragement, reproof, comfort, accountability and teaching. You cannot serve someone in these ways if you are holding a grudge. If we are looking out for others, we do not have the time to focus on others offending us.
“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.”
1 John 2:9
I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,"
When we allow offences to come in and take root, it becomes harder and harder to get rid of it. More often than not it leads to gossip, bitterness, slander, and unfortunately people are brought into the ugly mess that have no business being there. I have been in situations where I was brought into a mess of offences, and all kinds of people were getting offended over one person’s offence, meawhile someone’s reputation was being marred through it. I have come to realize something, never take for granted that there are ALWAYS two sides of the story (no matter how convincing or how close a friend it is) and never spread offences further. If someone is complaining about the church, tell them to go to the church. If someone is complaining about a friend, suggest them to talk it over with that friend and perhaps you can arrange it for them as well. That is how you can help and keep things from getting ugly and keep your conscience clear.
If this then is the will of God, to live and work in harmony with those around us, well, how do we do it? First of all remember that allowing offences to take root is sin, and it is something everyone needs to fight against to keep their heart pure. Whenever your mind drifts to how someone has offended you, remind yourself of how Jesus treated those who plotted against him. I am so humbled when I think of Judas; although Jesus knew his heart from the beginning, he still let him be the treasurer and take part in some of the most intimate parts of his life! Could we do that to someone who was taking advantage of us? Jesus loved him despite his faults, it’s a lifestyle that he calls us to as well. If you are living a life of taking in offences and you don’t know how to get rid of it, I’d like to share a few things that have helped me. When you pray, don’t be afraid to be 100% honest with God. When I was struggling with specific people, my prayer would sometimes go something like this. “Oh God, I really hate this person, I hate what they did to me and how their actions are affecting those around them. I really would be happy if I never saw them again and I definitely can’t see myself living in harmony with them. Lord, this is how I feel, and I know it is not coming from you. PLEASE change my heart, and give me your love for them. Help me to see where they are struggling and how I could possibly help them. I can’t see myself having compassion for them, but thank you Lord for your example, and that you can change my heart.” It’s simple and honest, and I have often found great relief in praying like that, God really has changed my heart towards people that have offended me. Remember that you also need to retrain your mind. Keep in memory at least one verse to bring you back to focus. I often used Philippians 2:1-8 and 4:8-9. If you need help, ask others to pray for you, just mind you don’t share anything that will turn the prayer request into a gossip tool. Ask for prayer for your own judgmental attitude and to be able to have the love of God towards someone. There is power when you share your weakness, it’s part of what breaks us down and makes us usable.
Keep strong and encouraged sisters!
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers a multitude of sins.”
Mary Sue Bueckert
Beacon Bible Chapel