You can’t offend a dead person.
If you walk up to someone in a casket and say, “You’re ugly! Who dressed you this morning? Your opinion is wrong! I don’t like your mama!” it doesn’t bother them. They’re not there. They are dead.
The Word of God teaches us our old person is dead, but we live in a culture of insults, accusations, and offenses. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easy for me to get annoyed at people. Sometimes people say or do things that make me want to say, “Really?” At other times, their words sting so deeply that it wakes my old nature up from the dead, fists raised.
These offenses are the raw part of ministry. They are all part of the reason some leaders love crowds but don’t like people. Leaders must stay grounded in the Word of God and the light of God’s love and grace to not allow offense to take root and create deep bitterness. Forgiving people with sincerity in spite of offenses—big and small—is the key to Holy Spirit–empowered leadership.
It’s also important to keep in mind that when we experience offense, the burden of guilt may not rest only on the shoulders of the person who said or did something hurtful to us. The English Oxford Living Dictionary online defines offense as “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.” The key word there is “perceived.” What offends us has less to do with what others say or do than it is about how we choose to view the situation. It isn’t as much about the other person as it is about us.
In fact, offense really comes down to two important questions:
- How do you perceive yourself in light of others?
- Do others’ words and actions easily shake and offend the perception you have of yourself, or do you make allowances for other people’s point of view?
We can’t always control the initial emotions that try to rise up inside of us, but we do have the choice of entertaining them or not. If we’re not careful, we can choose to become offended at situations that hurt our sense of pride and turn a controllable situation into a train wreck.
The opportunity to become offended at people and life’s circumstances will come, but it is up to you whether to take offense or delete the offense from your spirit.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, choose to respond in love rather than offense.
When someone disagrees with your opinion, respond in understanding and peace rather than harsh words.
When someone hurts you, choose to forgive them rather than keeping offense in your heart.
When we stay steadfast in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit empowers us to respond to others out of love and understanding, rather than with harsh words and bitterness. Proverbs 19:11 says this about our perception of and reaction to offensive stimuli: “The discretion of a man defers his anger, and it is his glory is to pass over a transgression.” The English Standard Version says, “It is his glory to overlook an offense.” This is our calling as individuals and as Christian leaders. As ministers of the gospel, it is our duty to forgive easily and be a great example to others struggling with offense and unforgiveness.
Leaders know offenses start as little pebbles but over time can grow up to be boulders of defilement. That stops their personal growth in God and destroy all that they have watched God build.
Remember also what Ecclesiastes 7:21–22 says: “Do not give heed to everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you have spoken a curse against others.”
When we are tempted to succumb to frustration over others’ hurtful words and behaviors, it’s always good to remind ourselves that it is almost certain that other people have had the opportunity to become offended by something we have said or done. Think about what it feels like to know that you have been extended grace and forgiveness—or, on the other hand, how it felt when someone responded to you in anger and bitterness.
Don’t allow small or large offenses to create in you a wrong spirit or a dirty heart. That will stop the flow of God’s grace in your life. If you have messed up, confess it in prayer to God. I must constantly work on myself, and I can tell you the best course of action is to ask God to forgive you, ask others to forgive you, but most importantly, receive God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.
You are beautiful. I see Jesus in you.
Have an awesome week.