When Offenses Come

Let’s face it……we are all going to be offended at some point in our ministry.  Matthew 18:7 makes it pretty clear that offenses must come into the life of every believer.  It’s a sad fact, but a part of life.  Offenses may come from various sources; family members, colleagues, leaders, and congregants can all be guilty.  Some are malicious in their intentions while others are lashing out due to a misunderstanding, ignorance, or personal hurt.  While it is clear that offenses will come, how we respond to the offense is where the real battle takes place.

When my senior pastor preached on this very topic a few months ago, one statement stuck with me more than any other:  “Hurt people hurt people.”  (It’s not a typo……read it several times and let its meaning sink into your core.)  There are two truths to be seen here.  First, notice that the initial response when we are offended is to get even…..to hurt someone else as much as we have been hurt.  That’s humanity in us.  No wonder Jesus said that we are to “bless those who curse us.”  (Luke 6:28).  That action is so contrary to our natural response that the fruit of His spirit abiding in us in clearly evident.

It is also important for us who work in ministry to see that the one doing the damage is probably severely damaged himself.  They have been hurt by people’s comments or things are going on in their life that we can never fully know.   That shows us why Jesus continues His instructions by telling us to “pray for those who mistreat you.”  When I actually pray for the one who has offended me, a few things happen.  First, I begin to see that person with the eyes of Christ.  While I am praying for the guilty one, I am also allowing the Holy Spirit to do a work within me…..eliminating all the vile feelings I might harbor against the individual.

Is it possible to avoid being offended?  Not according to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 18, but I think that we can be aware of the circumstances that create offense and make sure we are on high alert in those seasons.  For instance, in my personal life I know that three things make me susceptible to being easily offended.  At the top of the list is extreme tiredness.  This tends to be accompanied by stressful situations in ministry.  During these seasons, I know that I have to insure that I spend additional time in prayer and Bible reading to make sure my heart remains pure and that I constantly “guard my heart.” (Proverbs 4:23)  The other two issues are actually relationships that I know I have to avoid;  I’m not rude to these individuals.  I simply know that I need to avoid interacting with them for prolonged periods of time.  I am thankful to say that two of these situations are getting better all the time and I am learning to handle the challenges with victory.

However, there are times when it seems as though someone is simply out to cause us offense as a sport.  They repeatedly wreak havoc on our world and seek to destroy our ministry.  What do we do in these situations?  I’m facing one of those periods right now.  I don’t have a solid answer to share with you, but I will tell you the verse that I am reminding myself of daily:  “How are they increased that trouble me?  Many are they that rise up against me…….But You, O Lord, are a shield for me — my Glory and the Lifter of my head.  I will not be afraid of ten thousand people who have set themselves against me all around.”  (Psalm 3:1-3; 6)

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