Last night was the third time in less than a week that God put this word in front of me, so I guess He’s trying to make a point. Who knows? Maybe He’s trying to make that point to YOU and I’m just the scribe here, but…no, it’s probably to me, too, so I guess we’d both better pay attention, right?
It came up during my Ladies Bible study discussion time. We’ve been studying Kelly Minter’s What Love Is (a study of 1, 2, and 3 John). Subject matter is pretty title-evident here, so I won’t go into that right now. Anyway! We had a discussion starter that asked, “How has the Holy Spirit rescued you by refusing to let you continue in a specific sin?” Well, it was supposed to be a discussion starter. In reality, it resulted in a lot of dropped heads and a palpable please-don’t-let-her-call-on-me vibe. It’s a tough question. Fortunately (or perhaps un-fortunately) I actually had an answer for that one myself. I shared the much-abbreviated version of the following situation with them and now, again, with you:
Many years ago, someone in my life decided it would be ok to make disparaging remarks about someone I love dearly…TO me. It didn’t go well. In fact, it pretty much ended the relationship’s previously sweet fellowship, but being the proper God-following Christian that I am, I decided that I would just forgive and forget…except that I didn’t. I couldn’t. Every time I thought of that person, I replayed the scene and then I’d tell myself that I’d forgiven and I just needed to move onward. One day I was sitting at a traffic light on my way to work when God spoke loudly within my spirit that I needed to call and apologize to them.
“Yes. You’ve had a bad attitude toward them and you need to apologize to them for it.”
“But, I didn’t start this! I did nothing wrong! This is on them!”
“I know. Call and apologize. Now.”
I called. I apologized. They said, “Yes, I know. I was right.”
(And yes, it actually happened and, yes, I really did think my head might explode…just before God reminded me that this call wasn’t about THEM. It was about ME being obedient. I finished the call and was actually able to move on from the experience just carrying the love and the knowledge without carrying the grudge or the offended spirit toward them. If you don’t think that’s a God-thing, then we need to chat. Soon.)
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, that was incident #1: my reminder of lessons learned…and still in need of practice. (One day I’ll be smarter and pick up on things sooner, right, God?)
Incident #2—I was getting ready for church Sunday morning and somehow my mind drifted into thinking about someone who seems to just have the gift for offending me. I mean, almost every time they speak. It’s been consistent enough that I’ve now started to dread even seeing them. Just avoid them, you say? Not possible. They’re part of my life…and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that God did that on purpose. Anyway. I was wondering to myself how I should deal with the situation. Should I write a letter? Make another phone call—I mean I do remember how that turned out on the last one. (grin.) Should I go talk to them in person? Take a witness or go alone? What to say so that I could address the matter and not be offensive on my end of it all? I mean, it isn’t about spiritual matters that we differ, it isn’t about political issues, it’s just life issues/people skills. (yes, it was a fine way to prepare for worship, wasn’t it?!)
God let me put it aside throughout Sunday School and the phenomenal worship and praise time. Then he had my pastor start talking. He’s been teaching us about generosity throughout the month of February. It’s been great…and then, he seemed to veer off into a slight tangent about attitudes toward others and offended spirits… Oh, yes, he did. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say HE did. God used my pastor and the Word to step all over my toes and remind me that I’m called to be generous in many ways…including the way I deal with people who don’t believe, think, or do just like I do. Instead, I’m called to love even my offenders. (and ouch…again.)
Incident #3—I was on that amazing highway of intellectual exchange—Facebook—last night and saw that someone had posted the following: “Being offended doesn’t make you right.”
Never one to let ambiguity stand in my way, I simply commented back, “Neither does not being so.” At least that was my intention. Epic fail on my part: I left out the “not” portion of that statement. HA! Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and how God will allow you to take your own self down a notch or two.
While my addition to the conversation makes no sense in its published form, my intended response does. Being offended doesn’t make you right any more than not being offended makes you right.
Don’t misunderstand me. There ARE things that should offend us (I can make you a list, if you really can’t make your own.), BUT being offended by something doesn’t mean we’re allowed to behave in ways or have attitudes—that one was for me (Oh. You, too. And you…yes, I see all those hands going up.)—that still do not honor Christ. (Yes, that was a period, but perhaps it needs to be cohesively restated.) Being offended by something or someone doesn’t mean we’re allowed to behave in ways or have attitudes that do not honor CHRIST! (Bold face, italics, underlining and an exclamation point on purpose, people.)
Think about it: We’re never going to be offended into believing the other person might be right…and that also means that we’re rarely likely to offend someone into a vibrant relationship with Christ. We’re called to be offended AND THEN LOVE THEM ANYWAY. No, I’m not kidding…and I get that straight from Scripture where we are instructed to become like Jesus. We are called to know Truth, LIVE the truth and speak it in love! We’re called to live HIM and that means that our standards must be inviolable (because they are HIS standards!) about those about things that are offensive AND about loving our offenders.
I need that to sink in deeeep, because one day that offender might be you…and one day it might be me. We’re all going to need this because Scripture doesn’t say this: “They’ll know you’re with Me by how easily you become offended and seek retribution and hold grudges and lock people out of your life because they don’t think/act/believe like you do.” Instead, it says this:
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35