I have been praying a lot lately for God’s transforming power in my heart to make me “un-offendable”. This article is written from the place of not having overcome these things in my own life yet, but just sharing some of my thoughts and the things that God has been putting on my heart about it all, because I have a feeling that many others probably deal with the same areas of weakness. And I know that it is only God’s power that can change our lives and hearts…so I don’t feel like I have to “have it all together” in every area I write about before I share the things God has been teaching me in the midst of my struggles…because any little grain of truth that I’ve gleaned from God along the way could be a help and a guidepost for you, too.
I have found, and perhaps you have too, that it is far too easy to become offended by any little thing that goes against my selfish desires. I can be perfectly happy, and then, along comes some well-meaning person with other plans than what I had in mind, and *POOF* instantly my mind is filled with, “But I wanted to do such-and-such,” and, “They don’t care about what I think,” and “Don’t they realize that they aren’t the only people on the planet,” etc. Or perhaps someone says something that doesn’t make you feel 150% loved and accepted. *POOF* “They hate me,” or, “I don’t want to ever see them again,” or “Why don’t they think about what they say before they say it,” or “They’re mean,” etc., all flood your mind. And sometimes my mind will take the “poor me” approach in its thoughts, making the selfishness harder to detect…things like, “All I want is for people to actually just love me,” or, “All I want is just a little time to have fun,” or, “I was just trying to help…”…etc. Your flesh takes on the persona of a “victim”; you feel like your rights have been trampled upon, and the simplest little desires that you “deserve” have been snatched mercilessly right out of your hands. Out pops those hurt feelings, and the anger and bitterness bubble up inside before you can even think. But even in these sneakiest of situations, if you take the time to really think about what the root of your offense is, it will almost always come back to selfishness (and when it’s not selfishness, it’s usually pride).
Now, I’m just going to insert a few Bible verses here that throw a bit of a wrench in all of our self-centered thinking:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit [pride], but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)
As Christians, all of our lives should point to Jesus, who didn’t hold onto any of His own rights, but gave Himself up for us. I read an excellent devotional by a man named Oswald Chambers, who has a lot of wisdom in this area. This is some of what he said:
“When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but you must make it an opportunity to exhibit the Son of God in your life. And you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus— it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.
Every time I insist on having my own rights, I hurt the Son of God, while in fact I can prevent Jesus from being hurt if I will take the blow myself. That is the real meaning of Colossians 1:24. A disciple realizes that it is his Lord’s honor that is at stake in his life, not his own honor.
Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself.”
These things are SO true, and they help you to see in a whole new light! We can look at insults and situations where you would seem, from an onlooker’s perspective, to have every right to be hurt and offended as, instead, an opportunity to display the love of Jesus, and the gentleness which is His greatness. The love that is not overcome with evil, but overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:21). When I choose to be offended by something, it’s a lose-lose situation, because I am responding to “evil” (or what my human nature wants to view as evil – whether it really is or not) with more evil (aka: sin). No good can come from responding in sin, because evil can only bring forth more evil – it is incapable of causing good to come from it. When you breed 2 lions, you get baby lions. It will happen every time. No matter how much you want them to, they will never create a baby horse; they are simply incapable (no matter what evolutionists say). In the same way, sin is incapable of bringing forth good, though God can step in and redeem situations…just like someone could step in and just buy you a horse, after you got tired of breeding lions. So when we hold onto offense because our sinful nature is enjoying the pity party, and because we are hoping that something “good” will come from us being/acting hurt and angry (in other words, we are hoping that we’ll end up getting our own way, or at least getting pity from others), in reality, we are not only causing all kinds of hurt to ourselves and others and our relationships with them, but we are causing God to have to discipline us, because we are actually sinning. No matter how real the hurt is from the other person – that is between them and God – but when you allow yourself to be angry, you are no longer innocent yourself, and you will have to deal with the consequences of your own sin. God has to make consequences for it so that you aren’t so quick to do it again. Furthermore, when we hold onto offense, we are also seeking to draw attention to ourselves instead of seeking to point to the sweetness and gentleness of Jesus. Instead of taking the blow for Jesus, and responding in meekness and love, we are causing Him to have to suffer twice over! It is such a good thing to remember, as Oswald Chambers said above, that we should be more concerned about the Lord’s honor being at stake in our lives than our own honor! When we are grumpy, and talking badly about the person who hurt us, and acting less kindly toward them, we are essentially saying to any and all watching that Jesus hasn’t really changed our lives, or given us love like we say He has. And we are also saying to God that we think He is too far away or unconcerned with us to help us to overcome these things. We are refusing to take hold of the power to overcome our sin nature which is not far off, but right within our grasp…but we prefer to feel sorry for ourselves. However, Jesus says many times in the gospels that, in order to be forgiven ourselves, we must forgive those who have sinned against us! And Ephesians 4:31-32 says,
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
It can be particularly difficult in situations when the person who has hurt you is a Christian. Your good, stout, “righteous indignation” (or at least we can often justify ourselves by calling it such) rises up within you saying, “They should know better!” “They should be different if they really love the Lord!” “I shouldn’t have to put up with that from them – they’re the ones that are supposed to be loving me like Jesus would,” etc. And, while it is true that someone who is calling themselves a Christian should be striving for change in their hearts and striving to live more and more like Jesus, at the same time, I can quote from Jesus Himself and say,
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:7)
Who are we to demand perfection from another human when we ourselves are full of sin? Who are we to say that people should know better than to hurt us when we go through our own lives bulldozing people down with our hurtful words and thoughtless actions left and right? It is not our duty to be the judge of what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing – we can’t see what is in their hearts, but God can! It is our duty to keep watch over our own hearts, and to keep our own feet from sinning, whether or not those around us do. I’m going to bring up what Oswald Chambers said one more time, because I think it’s a really excellent goal for us to have in our thoughts and our daily lives: “Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself.” If we aren’t holding up a standard that we think other people should be living up to, we will be much less easily offended. Instead, I think we need to begin to focus on simply living righteously ourselves, and pleading with God daily to fill us with His nature – his sweetness and gentleness and love – and asking Him for His strength and help to live in a way that brings honor and glory to Him…and then, not waiting until we feel like it…but just beginning to do it!