Saturday, May 16, 2009

Message for the (Easily) Offended

I had one of those interactions recently where I was momentarily bamboozled by a person clearly taking offence at what I’d said; in reflection the only thing I could have done better was take a little more time in what and how I communicated. It could have made a big difference.

The issue pertained to a safety problem--a problem for the person offended but not a problem for the committee deciding action. The main problem for me, apart from being the meat in the sandwich, was I didn’t (at the time) have the ten minutes needed to invest in properly explaining the decision, or else I would have.

We all deal with offence, either given (even when we don’t mean it) or received.[1] And it’s our human nature to feel offended when others wrong us.

But, after this recent situation I was given cause to think about how appropriate, or better, how inappropriate and even inadequate it is as a life response, generally.

And I cite this one reason:

In Matthew’s account of the gospel, Jesus is recorded several times after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-11) warning his followers and anyone else who’d listen about the impending doom. He knew his time had come. In Matthew 22, Jesus speaks about the Wedding Banquet in allusions of God’s still-present invitations to all to join the heavenly festivities--and the consequences for refusal and tardiness.[2] In Matthew 23, Jesus goads the falsifiers in the Seven Woes. In Matthew 24, there are still more signs of the End of the Age, and the following warning:

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”

–Matthew 24:42 (NIV).

Finally, Matthew 25 wraps everything up in three very poignant parables: The Ten Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, and the story of the separation of the goats and the sheep. Jesus uses quite plain language to say we must use time wisely while we have it. The wisest thing is treating his offer of salvation seriously, grasping it now, while we can.

The truth is we don’t have time to get offended. Unless it is Godly indignation,[3] it’s simply a sin to become offended i.e. we fall short or miss the mark of God’s intended best for us. The power of God in the indwelling Holy Spirit is such that offences do not harm us, or if they do, his Spirit helps us issue grace. And grace like this is the holy light of God shed over all witnesses such that they may see his glory! (See Matthew 5:14-16)

God has saved the believing servant to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:14-17). In response to life situations, we must train ourselves through the power of the Spirit to ‘do anything we feel is right, making the most of every opportunity; we just best don’t get offended!’ It’s a waste of time and plainly a risk we can’t afford.

“Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget” –Proverbs 19:11 (Msg). Or in a Biblical translation of the same verse, “Good sense makes a [person] restrain [their] anger, and it is [to their] glory to overlook a transgression or an offense.”[4]

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Something that turns all the tables on our perceptions of people taking offence is the issue of rejection. Rejection is a stark, eroding feeling that destroys many peoples’ self-esteem. When we’ve offended someone or we ourselves are offended, we could ask ourselves, “What role is rejection playing here?” This can help us understand from a unique, Godly perspective. It’s revelation.
[2] For an essay on the theological meaning of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, go to:'---Matthew-22:1-14-Commentary&id=1333306
[3] And we can easily be tempted to think lots of things in so-called ‘indignation.’ It is, however, a rare thing (for the Christian) to have reason to be visibly (i.e. behaviourally) indignant. We’re warned that we and others will face much opposition and persecution... what does God require of us? To get annoyed and react? No! Micah 6:8 is a lasting, prevailing reminder. Temptations at ‘indignation’ are often tricks of self-righteousness, or at least our manifest reaction to these temptations reveals it so to others.
[4] Amplified--modified mainly for gender inclusivity.

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