Examining the Roots
Most of us have suffered offenses. Haven't we all been on the receiving end? I bet you can nimbly count off some of the more flagrant incidences you have endured right now. I know mine are never far from the tip of my tongue.
Did you ever wonder this though: if we have all been offend-ees, who are the offend-ors? I mean, who is left doing all these horrible offenses? My memory isn't quite as sharp remembering being the giver rather than the receiver. And anyhow, if I offended anyone, it was not intentional. I didn't mean to. Why do they have such thin skin?
I got to thinking about all these things recently when I offended someone and then it offended me that they were offended. I was moseying along minding my own business and actually feeling like all was well with the world. The fact that someone felt offended with something that I did with the very best of intentions blind-sided me. What was the root of it I wondered?
First of all, let me explain a little more about what happened. The original offense centered around a written communication of mine. That's an important detail when we analyze why I got offended. The recipients of the communication felt "lectured" to by me. From my heart I could genuinely say that I only intended to pass information along.
Immediately I began to defend myself. Shortly thereafter I began to criticize and judge them in my mind. "How immature they are. What big babies!" Next, I could feel myself shutting down. "Okay, if that's how it is - if they are THAT sensitive - I won't be giving them the courtesy of information anymore. See how they like that!" Now I smugly retreat, feeling on a higher rung of the spiritual ladder then them. Real mature of me, right?
As I struggled with all these thoughts a fragment of a scripture kept going through my mind. Doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible that, in the End Times, the love of many will grow cold? Finally I looked it up. Yep, there it is and it is talking about the End Times. Matthew 24:12 says; "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." Well, I believe we are in the End Times and I can certainly see that lawlessness is increasing on the earth. Maybe God is giving me a little hint.
Love Grows Cold
The final outcome when offenses take root in us is that our love grows cold. I better do something quick. My love toward these people was already growing cooler by the minute. The solution was not to blame them for getting offended in the first place - in fact, that made things worse. I better find out what was going on inside me.
When I got to a place of complete honesty I could see what target in my own heart their arrows had hit. They thought I was lecturing them? Why, don't they know that I am a writer and if there is anything I am skilled at it is written communication? Who do they think they are criticizing what I consider my best talent? Lo and behold, there sat PRIDE - and not the good kind of pride.
"Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered…" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) Hmmm. No wonder Jesus tells us how costly it is to be his disciple. "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24)
As I nursed my offense I could see that I did not really want to give it up or deny myself the satisfaction of being the one in the right. I felt justified in holding on to it. I wanted to be right and I wanted them shown to be wrong. If I put myself in their shoes though, isn't that probably exactly how they felt too? And there we have it - the anatomy of an offense. Both sides wounded, pouting in their own corners.
We, all of us, are not just the victims of offenses by other people. We are the perpetrators of offense too. We give as good as we get even if we don't want to admit it. I look back over the history of offenses in my life and I see it better now. We all lob arrows out there - even unintentionally - that sting others. As long as our stinky fleshly nature lives on, we take offense and then we fling it back and they take offense. After that love grows cold. Killing the flesh will warm us back up.
Level playing field
Aren't we really on a level playing field in the offense category? I'm not in actuality on a higher spiritual rung than anybody. If I want my arrows to be graciously ignored, don't I need to graciously ignore theirs? If God has given me grace which I don't deserve, can't I pass it on? The love of "many" may grow cold as we approach the end of the age, but count me out of that number.
Rather than grow colder I want my love to grow warmer. It means I need to kill my flesh. Tough decision but I go with it as I remember this: "love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8)