Most things in life start small, and the same can be said of offence. The definition of offence is a violation or breach of law, custom, rule, a lack of politeness; a failure to show regard for others; wounding the feelings of others.
Offence always starts with a thought, like a little seed, which enters our minds and hearts and grows. We can feed that seed of offence, or we can uproot it before it has an opportunity to become fully-grown.
The bible talks a lot about offence and the damage it causes. Jesus said in Matthew 24:10 that one of the signs of the last days will be the fact that many would be offended.
Left unchecked offence will cause us to become touchy, not easily to correct or instruct , and a person who always takes things the wrong way or reacts to situations disproportionally. Easily offended people are exhausting to be around, because everyone else feels like they have to tiptoe around them “on eggshells”.
The seeds of offence are sown into our lives in various ways, but mainly by:
What others say and do: we can harbour the seeds of offence through what others say; through harsh words, sarcasm, and feeling unappreciated. Humiliating or embarrassing experiences can cause the seed of offence to start to grow in our hearts. As can what other people didn’t do for us. The help and assistance we didn’t receive, the compliments or encouragement that wasn’t given.
Left to grow that seed of offence will turn into an ugly weed producing a root of bitterness, which has the potential to wreck havoc in our lives.
“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:14-16)
We can discern whether we are harbouring seeds of offence by checking on what we say, and do.
What is in our hearts will come out, and a sign of offence growing in our lives is if we are constantly responding aggressively, with criticism, and a readiness to judge others. When we are controlled by offence we also live controlled by our emotions or flesh, rather than by our spirit, and the Holy Spirit within us.
Jesus made it clear that we will have the opportunity to become offended at some point in our lives. But we are to guard our hearts and minds against it, for when we allow offence in it will hinder our ability to hear and do what God says. Plus the devil loves it, because he uses our offence to disempower and immobilise our faith. He knows that offence causes division, disunity and un-forgiveness, and hinders the effectiveness of our prayers.
The antidote to offence is to guard our hearts, and keep love as the primary motivating factor in our life. We keep short accounts with God, and if someone offends us we choose to forgive them, and to hold no records of wrongs. It’s not only for the other person’s good, but for ours also. If someone hurts or offends us we are encouraged to go to them and resolve the matter as much as we are able on our part, and to keep walking in love. (Matthew 18:15-16; 1 Corinthians 13:3-7).
Jesus said, “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. (Matthew 18:15-18)
“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” (1Corinthians 13:3-7. The Message)
Today, check your heart, your thoughts, responses, and what you say and do. Are you touchy, or quick to judge others? Ask for God’s help to forgive any grievances, and to root out any bitterness and offence. Instead of getting offended and tetchy with the world, choose the way of love, and the seeds of offence won’t be able to find root in your heart.
Prayer: Lord would you please examine my heart and show me if there is anything that is not pleasing to you. If I have allowed the seeds of offence or a root of bitterness to find a place in my heart I ask that you would remove it, and replace it with your love and kindness. In Jesus Name. Amen.