Spare Change - October 2021
It seems like everyone is offended about something today. People are more sensitive about what is said to them and at the same time less sensitive about what they say. Christians have had to think about the issue of offense for a long time because it is addressed in the scriptures. In fact, the scriptures are clear on what is expected from the followers of Jesus. Nevertheless, we find ourselves at odds often. What can be done? How should we deal with offenses from brothers and sisters in Christ?
The issue with offense is first an issue with intention. It has been called the bait of Satan because when we take the bait of offense, we spring a trap in our lives. In this way Satan has a field day with our relationships. If he can get us sideways with each other then his work is done. He can sit back and watch us as we sin with hateful thoughts and actions. The issue of offense is paramount to the health and success of the church on its mission. That is why God spoke about this in the scriptures and put a plan in place to deal with offenses.
The first thing we must address is our heart. We are told in Philippians 2:1-11 that we are to have a humble attitude. We are encouraged to share the “mind of Christ”. Meaning that we think like Christ, especially in how we treat others. We are to think about others, placing their needs over our own. Jesus is our supreme example in how He humbled Himself by coming to earth to be our sacrifice on the cross. This is our model of humility; we are to sacrificially care for others.
This type of attitude means trying to think the best of others or another way of saying it is we give them the benefit of the doubt. This is often the basis of most conflict. We assume intentions or we think of people in the worst way. The Christian's first move should always be to assume the best of someone else. It is kind of like being innocent until proven guilty. How many conflicts would be solved if we just did this? I guarantee it would eliminate a large chunk of them.
What about the conflict of intentional offenses? In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus lays out a plan of reconciliation when an offense is given. The key to this plan is seeking reconciliation. Often when people try to resolve conflict they are seeking to “win” or get their pound of flesh. This is never Jesus' attitude. Jesus wants us to care for the other person in a way that will restore the relationship. Jesus tells us to first seek the person that has given the offense; this can go either way, as evidenced by other scriptures. Someone needs to go and initiate the process. If the one-on-one meeting does not work, then the person is instructed to follow the plan of getting others involved, up to the point of involving the church in the process. The hope is it never gets to this point but that is the ultimate authority in this situation. Why don’t we follow this plan more often? I have seen many Christians simply refuse to interact with someone because of an offense. That is not what Jesus tells us to do.
There are two possible reactions to an offense. Either the offense is small and possibly unintentional, so you just overlook it. You love that person and know they were having a bad day or mistakenly did something, just let it go. If it is something that cannot be overlooked or it was intentional or is an issue of sin, then YOU MUST BEGIN THE RESTORATION PROCESS! Do not wait until they come to you, you start the process. Jesus gave us this instruction because He knew we would experience conflict. We are sinful people, albeit redeemed, but still struggling with the flesh and because of that we experience conflict any time there is a group of people together in a church, family, workplace, neighborhood, etc. We cannot avoid it, the only thing we have control over is how we deal with it. Dealing with offenses in love and grace will separate mature believers from immature ones. In fact, Jesus says in John 13:35 the world will know we belong to Him by how we love one another!
This has been, and still is, a struggle for me. I would love to say I handle all offenses correctly, but I still need to be reminded of this truth. I do have the opportunity to be offended or to offend others often. I have found if I start to get offended, I need to remove myself from that situation for a short time to pray. When I pray for help and wisdom, the Lord is always faithful to help me deal with situations in a Christ-like manner. The key is to actually go and deal with the situation and when I do, do it in a loving way that is always seeking reconciliation. Is there an offense you have given recently or has someone offended you? Start by reading the scriptures from this article, praying, and then seeking reconciliation. God will help you to get it right!