How to Overcome Offenses
People hurting us is a part of life. The question is how are we going to respond.
When it comes to offense, we can begin to deal with it by asking ourselves an important question. When are we most like Christ?
Is it when we read our Bibles? When we pray?
Is it when God uses us to do powerful miracles in His name?
The truth about this question may shock you. But to get to the answer, we must first answer another question – why did the Jews want to kill Jesus?
In Luke 5, some people lowered a paralyzed man through the roof down into the house where Jesus was. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)
Now watch at how the religious leaders respond:
“But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Luke 5:21)
They wanted to kill Jesus because He said he was God by saying that he forgave someone’s sins!
They didn’t accuse Him of being like God when He healed sick people, or when He prayed, or when He fasted. But when He forgave somebody, they said He was acting just like God.
What does that mean for us?
We could say that we are more like God when we forgive someone for offending us than at any other time in our lives.
To forgive is to be like God.
Now, that sounds great. But the real question for us real people who are dealing with real issues is… how?
How do I forgive someone and keep offense to a minimum? There are actually 2 major concepts that help us to do exactly that. Let’s explore them both together.
1. Understand that Offenses Will Happen
“He said to His disciples, "Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through!” (Luke 17:1)
The hardest part about dealing with an offense is that we assume it should have never happened in the first place. We feel as though we have a right to be hurt because the person we love let us down so deeply. When our loved one promises us (s)he will change, but change doesn’t happen, we respond as though the person should have never broken their promise. When our boss embarrasses us in front of our coworkers, we feel that (s)he is wrong and should not have done that to us.
This sense of “you-should-not-have-done-that-me” is at the root of offense. We expect not to be offended. But that is not what Jesus said. In fact, he said the exact opposite. Jesus told his disciples that “offenses will certainly come.” So, what are the implications of that?
Simply put, expect the unexpected. Know that people aren’t perfect and somebody is going to let you down. Not that we go around looking for people to offend us. But neither do we act surprised when they do. People are people. And just like us, they make mistakes. That means that no matter how much we try to avoid being hurt, “offenses will certainly come.”
2. See the Bigger Picture
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
Now that’s big picture thinking! Here is Joseph. His brothers sold him as a slave. His master’s wife lies on him and accuses him of raping her. He’s thrown into prison. Forgotten about. Then God raises him to the highest position in the land second only to Pharaoh. The same brothers who sold him as a slave come to him for food during a famine and that’s when he says they intended to harm him but “God intended it all for the good.”
It’s easy to lose focus and see the hurts that people cause us. But could it be that God is preparing us for a bigger season in our lives? If we get bitter and allow offense to grip our hearts, we will stay stuck at a low level – right there in our offense.
But if we allow the hurts that other people bring into our lives to shape us and make us better, then we set ourselves us for God’s promotion. When we see the bigger picture – that God is arranging things in our environment for our good – then we can learn to let the offense go and to forgive like Jesus does.
Dealing with offense isn’t easy. But it’s important to make sure that we not allow it into our hearts. Bitterness can destroy us if we let it. But instead of getting bitter, we can get better.
The way to deal with offense is to first of all expect it. Jesus said it would happen. So, know that it will.
And when it does, try to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. What is God doing in me through this offense? What is He trying to change in me before He can take me to the next level?
Remember, offense is inevitable. But being offended is a choice.
Make the choice to forgive.