How do I deal with offenses?
The other morning the Lord showed me something in a dream where I had caused offense to someone and so I asked the Lord what it was that I had done that created that offense. There was nothing that came to mind that I felt I needed to go to that person to apologise for, nothing that was obvious, but then the Lord showed me. I had judged that person in my heart and in so doing was holding that person in a different light than I had previously. That may not seem much and I know we all do it, but if we truly love people then we no longer see them with the thing we have judged them for but rather we see them as Christ sees them. Free from sin, free from judgement with all the possibilities, hopes and future that there is in them. We see all their good qualities, the good characteristics. We no longer see the sin or not even the sin, but the thing we think they may need to change in, but we see them as Christ sees them, beautifully and wonderfully created with a hope and a future, we see the gold and not the dirt.
This is huge if you stop and see the ramifications of that judgement in my heart. As a leader in ministry, do we then allow that person to continue on ministering? When we judge someone in their sin or in their weakness, or in their personality, we say in our hearts "prove yourself before we allow you to minister to others" hence bringing people under law again. Or we don't trust you, in effect saying you have to have it all together before I will let you do anything again. It is no different in our lives with the people we judge and then hold them at arms length in our lives because we see them differently than we did prior to that failure or difference. But Jesus never did that. He knew what was in Judas's heart and yet he still allowed him to hold the money. He knew that Peter was going to deny him three times and yet he still built his church on him. He knew we were going to crucify him on the cross but he still went to the cross saying father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. 1 Cor 13 – always hoping, always trusting…..
Proverbs 18:19 “An offended brother is like a fortified city whose walls cannot be broken down.”
What do we do with offense? Whether we have received it or if we have given it to others?
Like in proverbs we become this fortified city and don't let people in because of fear of hurt or for whatever reason, lack of trust etc. But the Lord doesn't want us to go down that track. He wants us to learn to deal with offenses so that our hearts remain open to him and to others.
Jeremiah 12:5-6 "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? " The Lord is wanting to teach us how to deal with things like offenses so like this scripture above we don't get worn out in the safe ground so that when things come from other places we know how to deal with it in such a way that it doesn't effect us.
We grow tired and weary in our own strength but the Lord wants to teach us that when we trust in him to sort things out, when we let him be the judge and the vindicator, we will rise up on eagles wings and not grow tired and weary, that we will run and not grow faint.
So on a practical level how do we deal with offenses? Here are some thoughts that may help you. Obviously not the be all and end all to how to deal with offenses, but some things that help me on a daily basis, and may help you.
For me, firstly I need to check my heart and see what offenses there are? Search my heart oh God, show me any wicked way in me?
Then realising that I have hurt someone with my words or my actions, I ask the Lord for forgiveness and bless that person. But I need to also check, “ Is this something that I need to go to that person and apologise for?. Would it have wounded them?” And if so then I would go to that person. Once done, it is finished. No longer to come under condemnation again because I have done my best and made every effort to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Whether or not they forgive you is not your responsibility, it is theirs. They can no longer hold you accountable for it because you have brought it before the Lord and before them.
If someone has offended me with their words or actions?
Sometimes people say things and sometimes there is a ring of truth to their words and we don't want to hear it. So we need to sift out what is of God and what is not. What are the words that are true and not take offense to the truth even though it may hurt at times, but to listen to it as it may be something we can't see about ourselves and in someone bringing it, may actually help us to move forward. But sometimes there are words that are spoken in anger or from a place of judgement toward us, that are not of the Lord and those words we need to let go over us. In proverbs it says about a "fluttering curse has no place to land". I have found that when I am doing well the things people say about me don't effect me because I can recognise the truth, but when I am not doing so well emotionally or spiritually, those words that people say are like arrows in my heart that wound. They may be the same words but because of how I am reacting or feeling about things, I take it differently, not their problem but mine.
I find that these situations are all good and that is why Paul writes so much to rejoice and again I say rejoice, why - because the things that come at us like this, help us to find out and discern who we really are in Christ and who we are not and so when having worked through all this, we find it easier for things to fall away that are not of God, but first we have to learn the truth about ourselves and know who we are in Christ. We can easily be offended but we have to make a choice not to take offense and to give to God what is not ours to pick up, what other people are giving us that is actually their own judgements or the lens in which they see through, or perhaps even the words that have been spoken over their own lives by others which they are now projecting onto you out of their own hurt.
Sometimes we need to go to those people who have hurt us and say to them that they are hurting us, especially if it continues, as sometimes people do not even know that their words or actions hurt us and I am sure their intention is not to hurt. Sometimes people’s personality just rub us up the wrong way and we can be offended simply because their personality is different to mine and therefore I judge their behaviour against the measure I set as perhaps sin when it is not and that is something I have to deal with.
Each of us look through lenses and we all see things differently but the stable and sure foundation is found in the bible and what the Lord would say about you and with that we need to line everything up with. We need to learn to give grace and forgiveness to others as Christ has given it to us and doesn't hold us in that place of sin. As he has forgiven us our sins so we too are to forgive others theirs. Prov 19:11 "A man's wisdom give him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." We pray for wisdom but to get wisdom we have to go through things which lead us and teach us, which give us the wisdom that we have been asking for. We know we have truly forgiven someone when we see that person and not find out hearts holding back and protecting ourselves. So let me encourage you to search your heart before the Lord and see if there is any offenses in your heart that would make you like the barred gates of a citadel (prov 18:19) that nothing can get through or whether our hearts are soft toward man and toward God.