A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)

In 1987, President Reagan said in a speech in Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” President Reagan was referring to the wall built by the communists, separating East and West Berlin. A little more than two years later, East Germans gathered at the wall and demanded that the border guards immediately open the gates. Some people took matters into their own hands and began “chipping away at the wall.”

For nearly 30 years, a wall had divided families and friends. It was fear that constructed the wall, but it was a pang of hunger for freedom that tore it down. The Berlin wall has been gone for more than 30 years, but many barriers remain between people. We build a new wall every time we allow ourselves to be offended by something or someone.

If we are honest, we build walls in response to what we hate or fear. We can be offended by so many things. We believe that building a wall is a good thing because it protects us from something terrible. However, when we make a wall, it prevents access in both directions. If we take the ministry of reconciliation seriously, the wall we construct is a barrier that prevents us from accomplishing our task.

No Offense

We should decide not to be offended by anyone or anything. Ironically, I am almost sure that that statement will offend someone. It is easy to tell someone else that they should not be offended by what they see or hear, but we readily find justification when it comes to what offends us. Only when we consider our mission to be agents of reconciliation will we have the motivation to look past what offends us.

Reconciliation is easier said than done because, as we all know, there are many offensive things everywhere around us. It is almost impossible to keep track of all the things in the world around us that fly in the face of decency and stand in stark contrast to the heart and character of God.

Add to this the many times someone is “offended” because they did not receive the recognition or praise they thought they deserved. There is no value or benefit in being offended. It does not enhance our stature and will not advance our agenda.

Allowing ourselves to be offended is worse than useless because it drains us of time and energy that we could expand more efficiently in serving others. In his book “The Bait of Satan,” John Bevere writes: “Many are unable to function properly in their calling because of the wounds and hurts that offenses have caused in their lives. They are handicapped and hindered from fulfilling their full potential. Most often it is a fellow believer who has hurt them.”

An Example to Follow

In Mark 6:34, Jesus and the disciples had been in the boat and saw a great crowd when they landed. Knowing all people’s thoughts, Jesus could have called out the hypocrites, those who had betrayed their spouse, those who were not faithful in their service to God, or any other sin that we might imagine.

Jesus could have been offended because they would not leave him alone so that he could get some rest. Instead, the Scriptures tell us he had “compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus, the perfect, sinless, incarnate God, could have looked out in horror at the mass of people with their failures, betrayals, and sin and have been offended, but instead, he began to teach them many things and provided them with food.

Full Allowance

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

We may struggle with this whole concept of not being offended by others. Others have wronged us; in our eyes, we believe we are entitled to be offended. To put it in perspective, we must recall that we have done things that are offensive to God. Our rebellion, hard-heartedness, and self-interest in light of everything that God has done for us must not go unnoticed.

Paul says, “so you must forgive others.” The words of Jesus amplify this point: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14–15 (NLT)

How can we forgive someone when we have placed a barrier or a wall between us? But an even more significant question is, “How can God forgive us when we have built a wall around those who have offended us?”

The Choice

It is a choice to be offended by things that are offensive. It is not difficult to look around and find endless opportunities, but what will it accomplish? It is easy to make the case that offense is a form of self-righteousness. The hard cold fact is that allowing ourselves to be offended does not accomplish anything useful unless it fills our hearts with compassion that stirs us into action.

If we must be offended, let it not be about ourselves, but instead, let us be moved to compassion and action when we see the oppressed, the abused, or the forsaken. May we be so closely identified with Jesus that we are able to bless those who persecute us and go the second mile with those who seek to take advantage of us.

The decision not to be offended does not imply approval. There is a liberty to be gained when we do not succumb to being offended. To see and experience things that are offensive is unavoidable, but being offended is a choice that may cause us to feel justified in our righteousness. Instead, when we follow the example of Jesus, our hearts be filled with love and compassion. Let us tear down walls, or better yet, not build them in the first place.

Steve Ekeroth

 

1 Comment

  1. Rev Jan Michael Nace on July 15, 2022 at 1:27 pm

    I have a different view of sorts Steve. I am offended when people blaspheme God. I am offended when people curse in his Name. I am offended when people claiming to be Christians are false believers and do things that hurt the Gospel. Yes, I am offended by sin. But I understand your effort to overcome offense but I think offense serves a purpose and that is to help us realize there are things better than the offenses and to use that opportunity to preach the Gospel.

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