Have you ever noticed how easily we are offended by each other? We become offended by what someone says, or does, or doesn’t do.
Many times in ministry, my wife, Linda and I have had to work through times of feeling rejected and the temptation to take an offense. Believe me, it isn’t easy. “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city.” (Proverbs 18:19) Today’s coffee time comes from her observations.
Proverbs 6 lists seven things that God hates. Notice how much of our body is involved in these sins: eyes, tongues, hearts, hands, and feet – until it consumes our entire body. There is a progression in this list. It begins with pride and ends with dissension. Sounds like an offense, doesn’t it? We had better hate these sins, because if God hates them, then the devil loves them.
- Haughty eyes – in other words, pride. Don’t they know who I am? I should have never been treated so badly. We see things only from our perspective, not realizing how we may come across to others. God loves humility. Jesus said this about our eyes, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:34-35)
- A lying tongue – When we are hurt by someone we may embellish what they said or fail to correct misinformation. We rationalize that a little white lie won’t matter. The Bible has strong language about lying. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44). Instead of speaking lies, this is what should come from our tongues, “My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.” (Psalm 35:28)
- Hands that shed innocent blood – We probably don’t murder people that we are offended with but we certainly commit character assassination. Anger causes us to refuse to forgive. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘you shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says ‘you fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22). What should we do with our hands instead? “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (I Thess. 4:11-12)
- A heart that devises wicked schemes – When we are offended, we think of ways to retaliate and seek revenge. Getting even begins to consume us. We tend to act like a victim and try to influence others around us to be offended with us. “The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.” (Psalm 36:2-4). God would have us forgive others. What kind of heart pleases Him? “Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22)
- Feet that are quick to rush into evil – We rush to judge the other person that we believe has wronged us. Things are filtered through our offense and we start collecting grievances against them. They can’t do anything right in our eyes. The Bible warns us about this. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1,2) Instead of having feet that rush to do evil, our feet should be used for God’s kingdom. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (Isaiah 52:7)C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “Your patient must demand that all his utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: ‘I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.’ Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet have a grievance when offence (sic) is taken.” (pg. 13-14)
- A false witness who pours out lies – Another word for this is slander. If our offense continues unchecked, we make broad, wild and emotional accusations against the other person’s character. Usually there isn’t anything specific to deal with. The Bible speaks strongly against this. “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” What should come out of our mouths instead? “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29)
- A man who stirs up dissension among brothers – Offenses create divisions – divisions in marriages, in the church, among friends and within families. Our character is revealed by the way we react to hurts. We can lead a rebellion and get in power struggles or take our hurt to God and allow Him to teach us to love and forgive others. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) Our eyes, tongues, hands, heart and feet need to be used for increasing God’s kingdom, not creating division because we have taken an offense. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1,2)
BEFORE YOU GO…
The devil loves to see Christians offended with each other. He loves church splits and poor witnesses to non-believers. He knows that the time and energy spent on these issues, take time away from doing God’s work. Is it possible there is an offense God is asking us to deal with today?