Life is unfair. Yes, yes, we all know it. It is such a well-known little platitude. Can nobody think of something original? As a matter of fact, no. Why not, you may ask? Well, since bitterness and inner pain is one of the oldest destructive forces on the face of the earth. It has been in the beginning and it is with us now. It was at the core of the first murder on earth, the jealousy and tragedy of Cain and Abel and even today it is a motive for murder, if left untreated. Inner pain, envy, anger and unforgiveness cause so much of the world’s woes. It is a playground for evil where our souls are turned into bloody battlefields.
We have said that offence is a baited trap, a stumbling block that hurts and wounds so deeply, that the slightest provocation will repeatedly send us into a downward spiral of despair and woundedness. I always imagine one of those horrible animal traps with sharp iron teeth that causes so much pain that the animal dies in misery or chew it’s paw off in desperation to get out. It might be one of those that is a well camouflaged hole in the ground with sharp spikes to kill whoever falls in. The pain of surprise and the humiliation of the trap contributes to the anger and tears that follow. Imagine blood, pain and tears and see your soul in such a mess of distress.
To treat inner pain, is so much more difficult than a bodily wound. It is possible to hide that deep cut from the sharp words or deeds coming our way. It is even possible to deny that we are wounded. Our pride will prevent us from getting help.
Pride, yes. It is not always comfortable to admit that we have been hurt. It is a humble and contrite spirit that will take the step of faith to bring soul-wounds to the Lord in prayer and admit to being broken by other people’s loveless and graceless words and deeds. Jesus said that nobody escapes.
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!(Luke 17:1)
The image of a soul with offence is a life poisoned with bitterness and hate, self-pity, unforgiveness, a hardened heart, unsympathetic, unkind, full of anger, lashing out to the people you least want to hurt. Offence can be real or imagined. There are people who are truly hurt and people who think they have been hurt. In both cases it has serious consequences that can cause a person to miss the potential and fullness of life that God has in mind for him or her.
Someone said: Harbouring offence is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will die.
The sooner one deals with offence and a hurt soul, the better. It cannot be allowed to steal joy, peace and love from your life. It is harmful and ultimately destructive. It can grow to such an inner monster that your personality will be changed for evil and you will destroy every meaningful relationship in your life. Do not allow your hurt soul to take so much time and energy in your thought-life. Offence and its consequences occupy thinking-time better spent in prayer and creativity. Jesus said in John 10:10:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (NKJV)
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (The Message)
The goal of our study is to deconstruct offence so that we may better understand its composition. It is a trap made in hell. It is the evil agenda behind the wound that wants to keep a person in bondage to prevent a life of abundance and excellence. See the evil in it and see the person through whom it comes through heaven’s eyes. The person who causes your offence is a person just like you – human and fallible.
It is quite possible that you also may have caused offence to other people. You might not even be aware of it. Someone can hold it against you and not talk about it. It might be completely unintended. David asks God to forgive his unpremeditated and inconsiderate sin.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.(Psalms 19:13)
Do not fall into the trap to live in bondage.
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Offence puts you in the hand of God’s enemy. If you do not take your anger to God and forgive, you are captive – in hell’s prison!
How could we be prepared? Shall we be on the lookout for the horrible persons in our life? That might not help much. It often comes from an unexpected source.
Often the people closest to you and in many cases fellow Christians inflict the deepest wounds. The devil is most active in church. It is there where he sows his thorns of loveless and graceless words and actions to spread hate and discord.
This isn’t the neighborhood bully
mocking me—I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
invective—I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.(Psalm 55:12-14, The Message)
The closer the relationship the more severe the offence. Divorce, hurt from siblings or parents and rebellious children, cause deep wounds that can bleed at the slightest provocation.
In our society, more than ever, selfishness is the reigning guide to living.
2 Timothy (3:1-5) sums it up:
Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (The Message)
Easy to say: what if it is your family he describes, worse even – your family in law. How do you handle the horror of our world thrown at you? You can be offended by things that have nothing to do with you but come to people you love. You can be angry at public issues like pollution, climate change, the virus, the plastic in the seas, abortion, suicide rates, human trafficking and every other community cruelty that the readily available media throws at you daily from the convenience of the smartphone screen in your hand. How do you think about it, decide about it and act upon it?
The answer is, as always, in the Word of God. Read Proverbs 4 and Philippians 4, just for a start.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Meditate on These Things
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
We are only touching on the principles of a wide and comprehensive life-issue. Stay with us and watch this space.