Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt. 18:7)

Three Realities About Offenses:

1. Offenses are Inevitable:

According to the dictionary, “woe” means, “grievous distress, affliction, or trouble”. Anyone who has been offended understands woe. And from my experience; I can tell you, it will not get easier with age! But as Jesus points out, offenses must come. People offend each other; by what they do and say - or don’t say, and most of the time they do not even realize it. Either way, life affords us daily opportunities to be offended. What surprises me is the reality Jesus points out, “offenses must come”.

To understand this we must first recognize what an offense is. The word “offense” actually comes from the same root word as the word “scandal”. A scandal is stirred up by the belief that some hidden motive is behind an unexplained event, and an offense is often the same thing. It requires us to believe or imagine something (that may or may not be true), simply based on a tone of voice or an attitude in someones actions. Note that while offenses may be inevitable, Jesus does not let the offender off the hook anymore than the offended. Both are accountable and will experience their own level of woe.

2. Offenses Reveal Issues:

This is a hard reality to embrace. Yet, in the midst of an offense, lays a bit of reality that might need attention. I find it difficult to believe any good could come from the feelings that emerge from being offended, but just like any painful feeling… there is a source, a hurt or some forgotten baggage. God might have a bigger purpose in mind. Consider the following two examples from the Bible, Joseph and David.

Consider how Joseph was ridiculed, kidnapped and sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was later falsely accused of trying to seduce the wife of a high-ranking, Egyptian official. He spent several years in prison and it was quite a while before he was vindicated. He could have been very angry with his brothers. Years later; when he is in a position of power and could easily have had his revenge, they are now face to face. Joseph had learned something and said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen. 50:19–20)

Consider King David, in the latter part of his life, was chased out of Jerusalem by his treasonous son, Absalom. If that weren’t bad enough, a character named Shimei meets him on the road and starts throwing rocks at him. He curses David and reminds him of all his sins. He says, “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” (2 Sam. 16:7-8). Abishai, one of King David’s servants, said, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But David responded: “Let him alone, and let him curse… It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” (2 Sam. 16:11-12).

It’s easy to resent those who offend us. But what if God has a deep and important purpose for sending them… something that He intends for our good, because He truly loves us (Rom. 8:28). The offense never feels good at the time, but God has a plan beyond the wound… beyond us and our feelings.

3. Staying Offended is a Choice:

Every leader should memorize this verse: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11)

There are certainly times when it is legitimate to be angry. The Apostle Paul says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Anger can be a valid response to something that is wrong. But it can quickly become toxic; not only for those to whom we direct it, but also for ourselves. This is why the Apostle James admonishes us to be “slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19-20).

Between the offense and the response is the power of choice. This is what God put in us when He created us in His image, likeness and gave us dominion of the Garden of Eden. What makes us unique in the universe is our human will. We don’t have to respond; in fact, we do not even have to “hear” the offense - by choosing to ignore its invitation to let it stir our emotions. How many times have you ignored the phone when its a sales call or changed the tone of your voice in an instance depending upon who you are talking with. This is the reality of choice.

Choices are made by our ability to evaluate how our responses will benefit us at the moment. Those benefits are keys that unlock our understanding of authority and power. He who holds our heart, will rule our choices. The greatest leaders I know are not easily offended. Instead, they practice the habit of overlooking offenses.

Great leaders take the high road, give the offender the benefit of the doubt, and move on with the benefit of peace.

It requires character and a certain amount of skill in listening to what people say, rather than how they say it. I remind myself that offense will come, but I also recognize my choice is to find my identity in God’s pleasure rather than the approval of others or personal glory. I think that this is what the Apostle Paul meant by choosing rather to “glory in the cross” than look for personal justification (Gal. 6:14). A mutual crucifixion has occurred between myself and the world, I am dead to it and it is dead to me… which means I must not allow it to move me emotionally.

My freedom to reach God’s destiny is hinged to my ability to stay free from offenses!

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